Malaysia: Free Anwar, arbitrarily imprisoned for two years

FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights

and its member organization for Malaysia

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

Joint press release

Malaysia: Free Anwar, arbitrarily imprisoned for two years

Paris, Kuala Lumpur, 10 February 2017: Malaysian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, reinstate his right to run for political office, and award him compensation for the arbitrary deprivation of liberty to which he has been subjected, FIDH and its member organization Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) said today.

The two organizations make the call on the two-year anniversary of Anwar’s latest imprisonment. Anwar is currently incarcerated in Sungai Buloh prison, Selangor State.

“Anwar’s imprisonment is the result of a long-standing politically motivated persecution that must end today. The only way this ugly stain can be wiped from Malaysia’s human rights record is by immediately releasing Anwar,” said FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.

Anwar has been detained since 10 February 2015, when the Federal Court in Putrajaya upheld the Court of Appeals’ decision to convict Anwar on charges of sodomy (Article 377 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to five years in prison. FIDH observed the Court of Appeals and the Federal Court’s hearings of Anwar’s trial and found that the proceedings failed to meet international standards for fair trials.

On 18 January 2017, the Court of Appeals ruled that Anwar has standing to petition the Federal Court to determine if he has the constitutional right to challenge the Pardons Board’s decision to reject his request for clemency. A date for the case to be heard in the Federal Court has not been set.

Anwar’s family filed a petition for a royal pardon to the Malaysian King on 24 February 2015. The request was rejected by the Pardons Board, which advises the King on candidates for clemency, on 16 March 2015. On 24 June 2015, Anwar and his family filed a legal challenge against the Pardons Board’s decision. On 15 July 2016, the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed Anwar’s challenge.

If his bid to obtain clemency fails, Anwar is expected to be released by mid-2018, as a result of the Malaysian practice to grant a one-third reduction of jail terms to prisoners with good behavior. However, the conviction renders him ineligible to stand as a candidate in the next general election that must be held by 2018.

In an opinion issued on 1 September 2015, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) deemed Anwar’s detention arbitrary. The UNWGAD called for Anwar’s immediate release and for his political rights to be reinstated.

“The Malaysian government’s ongoing refusal to implement the UN’s ruling that found Anwar’s detention to be arbitrary is deplorable. It’s time for the government to stop ignoring findings from UN human rights mechanisms and immediately release Anwar,” said SUARAM Executive Director Sevan Doraisamy.

As long as Anwar remains incarcerated, FIDH and SUARAM reiterate their call for Malaysian authorities to guarantee him his prisoner rights – including the rights to receive adequate medical care in accordance with relevant international standards.

Press contacts:
FIDH: Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) – Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok)
FIDH: Ms. Audrey Couprie (French, English) – Tel: +33143551412 (Paris)
SUARAM: Mr. Sevan Doraisamy (English, Malay) – Tel: + 60169708370 (Kuala Lumpur)

Human Rights Day in Troubled Times

For Immediate Release
10 December 2016

Human Rights Day in Troubled Times

Human Rights Day that falls on the 10th December 2016 is supposed to be a day of celebration where people from around the world celebrate human rights. While the spirit of solidarity and hope remains strong within and without Malaysia, the situation pertaining to human rights in Malaysia have brought morale of all Malaysians to a new low.

Detention without Trial

The detention of Maria Chin Abdullah, Siti Noor Aishah, Azmi Nur Jalani, R. Sri Sanjeevan and many others made it clear that the spectre of Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) has not left Malaysia. While ISA has been repealed for years, the mannerism where detention without trial is a ‘must have’ tool adopted by the Royal Malaysian Police and the Malaysian Government has not changed. Draconian laws that were supposedly meant for counter-terrorism efforts have been and will continue to be abused by those in power for their benefit.

The Deputy Prime Minister himself has unabashedly informed the Malaysian people that 37 individuals from the Immigration Department of Malaysia were detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012. Of the 37 detained, only 4 had a chance to stand trial in court while 33 of them were subsequently rearrested and detained under the Prevention of Crime Act 1959. Dozens remain in custody till this day. Such practice does not protect Malaysian from further criminal acts and violence. Such practices only serve to hide the hidden hands that have had a role in these injustices and penalize the innocents.

Torture in Detention

The Deputy Minister for Home Affairs and the Inspector-General of Police continues with the perverse defence that the treatment received by Maria Chin Abdullah was no different from the treatment received by any other detainees as the Royal Malaysian Police only acted in line with their Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Perhaps the good minister and the well learned police chief wilfully chose to forget that compliance does not absolve the government of the crime of committing torture.

The claims that it the treatment experienced by Maria Chin Abdullah fully complied with SOP only serve as an evidence that torture is not an exception to the norm. The consistent statement and claims put forward by both the Minister and the Inspector-General of Police only proves and substantiate the past allegations that torture is systematically used against those detained under SOSMA and POCA.

Persecution of Student Activists

The disciplinary proceeding against student activists Anis Syafiqah, Luqman Nul Haqim, Luqman Hakim and Suhail Wan Azahar was heard on the eve of Human Rights Day. Their defence was swept aside and they were all found ‘guilty’ for jeopardizing University Malaya’s reputation, for organizing a rally and for causing public unrest and damage to public property.

The unfounded and malicious charges against the University Malaya 4 is only exacerbated by the unprofessional manner in which the disciplinary board heard the disciplinary proceeding. The notion of fair trial and natural justice was nowhere to be found with the allegations put forward against the students being altered and changed at a whim. The embarrassing display by University of Malaya only render themselves guilty of jeopardizing the reputation of the University and position the University as a key player of human rights violations against student and youth.

Indigenous Peoples Rights

Despite long year of campaign and small victories along the way, violation of indigenous peoples’ rights continues with absolute impunity. The communities’ fight for survival and human rights was not met with understanding and acceptance but challenged with violence and threats by the Federal and State government.

The government’s insistence on allowing the logging operation to continue with no plans for remedy would only set the indigenous community on the path to extinction. With such callous response, it is inevitable that our indigenous friends would gradually lose their homes, their livelihood and eventually their heritage and identity. Such loss would only be made worse with Malaysia losing its last few vestige of natural heritage with the culling of the forest.

Freedom of Expression and Assembly

Reflecting on the long year of repression, the first right that was silenced in this campaign of repression was our right to express ourselves and assemble peacefully. Persecution of vocal critics to the arrest and detention of individuals expressing their concern for human rights and democracy threatened to destroy the small democratic space we have left.

Imposing fine is no longer satisfactory. Only prison sentence seems to be enough the quell the Government of Malaysia’s need for retribution against those who were perceived as enemy of the state. Unfortunately, even the prosecution and punishment of critics in public space is no longer enough. The ire of the government now turns to every day Malaysian who voice their discontent and worries online. What freedom do Malaysians’ have when a Facebook comment can now put us in shackles?

The Fight Continues

In these troubled times, Malaysians need to remember that the night is the darkest hour is just before dawn. The fight for human rights and better Malaysia cannot be stopped and will only continue to grow. All Malaysians can do and all we can do is to stand together in solidarity with our friends in need and continue to march on against repression.

SUARAM reiterate our dedication to the human rights cause of Malaysia and call on all Malaysian to stand together in our fight for human rights and democracy. SUARAM also calls upon the Malaysian government to re-examine its callous stance on human rights and adopt policies that genuinely cares for Malaysians’ welfare. Failure to do so would only doom us all for all of us have no other home but Malaysia.

Salam Perjuangan!

In solidarity,
Sevan Doraisamy
Executive Director
SUARAM

DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL – MALAYSIA’S BIGGEST OBSTACLE TO TRANSFORMATION

DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL – MALAYSIA’S BIGGEST OBSTACLE TO TRANSFORMATION

Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 23 November 2016

The spurious manner in which the Najib government has detained Chair of Bersih Maria Chin without trial under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, SOSMA highlights a reality that Malaysians should be aware of – any national “visions of grandeur” by the national leaders while detention without trial exists are purely delusional…

Just as Dr Mahathir’s ‘Vision 2020’ was bound to fail while he clung on to the ISA, Prime Minister’s ‘Transformation 2050’ will meet a similar fate as long as he clings to the need for detention without trial to shut up his critics. The simple reality is: A developed (“transformed”) nation upholds a culture of the rule of law while banana republics rely on detention without trial to silence detractors to their regimes.

Despite the abolition of the ISA, detention without trial still exists in the form of SOSMA, POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015) and POCA (Prevention of Crime Act 1959), with security provisions that are broad and vague and that will result in continuation of detention without charge and denial of basic rights. Also, the BN government has shown that its capacity for vindictive prosecution is undiminished.

When the ISA was enacted in 1960, the government justified it by saying it would only be used against the “communists”. Liberals therefore concluded that they would not be affected. However, the mass detentions, such as those of Operation Lalang, 1987 demonstrated that no-one was exempt from the clutches of the ISA.  The new “anti-terrorism” laws such as SOSMA have a familiar sense of deja vu about them. The detention of Maria Chin is yet another example that these detention without  trial laws will not only be used against alleged terrorists but also against “inconvenient truth-tellers”.

Draconian laws have failed to nail alleged terrorists

It is an embarrassing record of the BN government and the security forces that since 1960, more than 10,000 Malaysians had been incarcerated under the ISA, though as far as we know, not one of these were exposed as “international terrorists”. On the other hand, there have been at least four Malaysians arrested (two in Syria) or killed abroad (in Indonesia) for alleged involvement in international terrorism but none of them (as far as we know) had ever been detained under the ISA for being threats to national security. That says a lot about the government’s resolve to fight terrorism!

But for all the government’s alacrity in arresting and detaining alleged “security threats” such as Maria Chin, it has been completely hopeless against local “terrorists” who pollute our precious water sources – the culprits who dumped toxic solvents into our water sources and posing a serious threat to our health. Has anyone been arrested and charged for these criminal acts? Who gave licences to factories which are situated so precariously close to our precious water sources? Has anyone been arrested and charged for such negligence and/or corruption? It is clear we are not going to attain “Transformation 2050” or simply enjoy a safe and healthy existence while the police and enforcement agencies do not know their priorities.

BN’s vindictiveness still evident

The ISA was a convenient weapon for the Alliance/ BN government to deal with its political opponents. This was seen at its most blatant form when practically the whole Labour Party leadership was detained under the ISA just before the fateful 1969 general elections. The shock effect of Operation Lalang in 1987 was Dr Mahathir’s attempt to create a climate of fear which set the scene for the timely assault on the Judiciary when it was about to decide on the UMNO Team B challenge in the courts. The police and Special Branch were compromised in this Team A scheme to fix critics of the government.

Operation Lalang bore the mark of Dr. Mahathir’s autocracy and vindictiveness – the rule of law could be flouted in such a cynical way that all his critics and dissidents across the Malaysian political spectrum were hauled in that dragnet. It was payback time for me for writing critical articles and books during the false spring of the 1980s. It was the same for the other detainees who had expressed dissident views.

Above all, it exposed the BN’s capacity for vindictiveness in all its nakedness – there was no regard for the rule of law, democracy and human rights. The detention without trial of Maria Chin shows that this proclivity for vindictiveness is the hallmark of banana republics, not the expected behavior of a progressive democratic society.

No sign of remorse by BN or Dr. Mahathir

If the BN government expects congratulations for repealing the ISA, then that is an admission that the ISA was a draconian and bad law. However, up to now, we haven’t heard any sign of remorse from the BN government for taking away the precious freedom of more than 10,000 Malaysians since 1960. And nearly 30 years after Operation Lalang was unleashed by then Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir, he has not found any ounce of remorse in his body to apologise to the 106 Malaysians whose freedom he stole.

And that, after all, is what sets him and the present Prime Minister far apart from statesmen such as Mandela who demonstrated a complete absence of vindictiveness in his dealings with his political opponents and honoured the rule of law and democracy.

Thus, nearly 60 years after independence, we do not seem to have progressed very far beyond banana republicanism. We are not impressed by political slogans of “Transformation This and Transformation That”. Real reform must involve among other things, the total abolition of detention without trial; the independence of the judiciary, civil service and the police force; democracy and the primacy of the rule of law, NOT rule by law.

If the government is serious about real transformation, it can start by giving Maria Chin her precious freedom and dismantling the entire detention without trial industry…

29 YEARS AFTER OPERATION LALANG: TIME FOR DR MAHATHIR TO APOLOGISE TO VICTIMS AND THE NATION

29 YEARS AFTER OPERATION LALANG: TIME FOR DR MAHATHIR TO APOLOGISE TO VICTIMS AND THE NATION

Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 27 October 2016

This 29th anniversary of the launch of Operation Lalang is perhaps the best opportunity for Dr Mahathir – if he has indeed become a reformed democrat – to apologise to the former Ops Lalang detainees and to the nation for that dastardly action in 1987 and subsequent assault on the Malaysian Judiciary.

On 27 October 1987, Mahathir’s Government began arresting and detaining without trial a very large number of people: Members of Parliament, politicians, unionists, NGO activists, religious leaders and educationists, including the writer. The official figure was 106 people detained. While the justification given was that this was necessary to defuse the racial tension at the time, Bapa Malaysia, the Tunku put it bluntly:

“UMNO was facing a break-up. The Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s hold on the party appeared critical when election rigging was alleged to have given him a very narrow victory against Tengku Razaleigh. The case alleging irregularities brought by UMNO members was pending in court. If the judgement went against him he would have no choice but to step down. So he had to find a way out of his predicament. A national crisis had to be created to bring UMNO together as a united force to fight a common enemy – and the imaginary enemy in this case was the Chinese community…Overnight, Malaysia has become a Police State…”

In other words, Operation Lalang was a deliberate and cynical move by Dr Mahathir to stay in office. This is a far cry from his recent boast about “never ever been asked to go…unlike the present Prime Minister!”

His subsequent action in sacking the Lord President Tun Salleh Abas and suspending three Supreme Court judges in order to pre-empt the legal challenge to his position in UMNO was unprecedented in the history of Commonwealth countries. The Tribunal’s Report recommending the sacking of Tun Salleh Abas was described by world renowned Geoffrey Robertson QC as “among the most despicable documents in modern legal history…”

Kit Siang on Mahathir, 2014

On 16 Feb 2014, the Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang who was also detained under Ops Lalang likewise called for Mahathir to apologise to all those detained in Operation Lalang under the ISA as he could not shirk responsibility for the dragnet, especially as he was Home Minister at the time:

“Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was reported in the media as denying that he was responsible for the infamous Operation Lalang in 1987 where 106 persons were detained under the draconian detention-without-trial Internal Security Act for him to consolidate political control and power in government, Umno and Barisan Nasional. Nanyang Siang Pau today even quoted Mahathir as disclaiming that he was Home Minister at the time of Operation Lalang, claiming that at the time he was in China and the Home Minister was one ‘Musa’.

Mahathir was talking rubbish. He is not only guilty of selective amnesia when it suits him, as when he told the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam Videotape scandal that he could not remember anything about the incidents related to the scandal of the fixing of judicial appointments, he has now shown that he is capable of telling downright lies to disclaim responsibility for the human rights violations perpetrated during his time as Prime Minister and Home Minister.

Mahathir can tell lies without batting an eyelid about the history of his premiership but he cannot change history at his whim and fancy. It is indisputable that Mahathir was the Home Minister during the Operation Lalang crackdown in 1987 and there was no ‘Musa” at the time acting as Home Minister. It is most unworthy and even cowardly of Mahathir to deny that he was responsible for the most infamous violation of human rights in the Operation Lalang ISA crackdown in 1987, made doubly worse by his attempt to even deny that he was Home Minister.”

Show us you are a born-again democrat, Tun

Whether an autocrat who has squandered close to RM100 billion of the nation’s wealth (according to social scientist Barry Wain in ‘Malaysian Maverick’) can get away with impunity is a separate question.

On this 29th anniversary of Operation Lalang, an anniversary during which I still reflect on the 445 days of my life that were cynically stolen by Dr Mahathir, I would hope for some sign of contrition by our supposedly born-again democrat, a democrat who recently signed the Citizens’ Declaration expressing “concern over the deteriorating political, economic and social situation in the country…”

Misinformed Minister or Minister Ignorant of Issues under Portfolio?

For Immediate Release
13 July 2016

SUARAM is surprised by Deputy Home Minister, Nur Jazlan’s views suggesting that Malaysia adopts a ‘soft’ legal approach in addressing the issue of terrorism and shocked by his belief that torture has not been used against alleged terror suspects in Malaysia.

SUARAM has documented countless cases and incidents where torture was used as the primary means to extract a confession or to coerce a false confession from suspects that were arrested on suspicion of committing an offence. The practice of violence also extends to alleged terror suspects and such incidents have been thoroughly documented and reported by SUARAM throughout the years. The families of the victims of torture has also filed their respective report to SUHAKAM and other relevant agencies for investigations.

Further, contrary to the view that Malaysia’s law on terrorism is soft, the provision that enables detention without trial such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, Prevention of Crime Act 1959 and Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 makes it abundantly clear that our laws are not ‘soft’ as described. The application of different type of ‘preventive’ laws on a suspect for the same offence makes the existing laws that are already uncompromising no better than the practices of Guantanamo Bay.

The minister’s ignorance on these issues and the inability to understand the concept of ‘soft’ legal approach against terrorism would suggests that the minister would require further sensitization on the issues under his portfolio. Failure to be up-to-date on these crucial issue may very well put the safety and security of Malaysia in jeopardy.

In Solidarity

Sevan Doraisamy
Executive Director
SUARAM