Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) Human Rights report Overview 2018 is now available to the public. 2018 has been a monumental year for Malaysia. With the first change of administration in the nation’s history, the Malaysian peoples’ aspiration for change and political reform is given an opportunity to flourish.Continue reading “SUARAM Human Rights Report Overview 2018”
Speech by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser at the launch of SUARAM’s Human Rights Overview Report 2018
On this Human Rights Day 2018, SUARAM asks: When will the time ever be ripe for human rights to be realised in Malaysia? Here, we pose six specific human rights questions to the new PH government which since coming to power on May 9th is developing a reputation for flip flopping over basic human rights issues. Such issues include failure to: ratify ICERD; bring back elected local government; redistribute wealth; regulate developers; commit to sustainable development and to have an accountable and effective police force. SUARAM’s Human Rights Report Overview for 2018 further calls for the abolition of detention-without-trial laws, the death penalty, the Sedition Act and the UUCA and other human rights violations that the PH government has found too convenient to use like their BN predecessors. The time never seems to be ripe for realising human rights in Malaysia…Continue reading “WHEN IS IT EVER TIME FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN MALAYSIA?”
20 December 2015
Resolution by the European Parliament on Malaysia sends a strong message to the Government of Malaysia
SUARAM welcomes the European Parliament’s resolutions on Malaysia which was passes on 17 December 2015. The resolution has been jointly initiated by the Members of European Parliament with many inputs and supports from Malaysia Civil Societies. SUARAM, together with International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) have been working on the advocacy notes and lobbying. The resolution was adopted by 88% majority (540 MEPs for, 41 against and 35 abstain.
The resolution reiterated a number concerns that were regularly raised by SUARAM and other civil societies about the deteriorating human rights situation in Malaysia, particularly crackdown on civil societies, academics, media and political activists. The resolution also raised concerns on the degradation of the rights to freedom of expression in regard to the increase in the number of people facing charges under the Sedition Act 1948.
The resolution also addressed serious concerns related to the adoption of the National Security Bill (NSC) that was passed in Dewan Rakyat (Lower House) on the 3rd December after six hours of deflection and misdirection by Barisan Nasional’s Members of Parliament. The manner which the National Security Council (NSC) Bill have been forced through the Parliament during the last days of its seating for 2015 only serve to exemplify the callous manner which the current Government of Malaysia chose to ‘run’ Malaysia. Despite the desperate pleas put forward by civil societies, the Government of Malaysia marched on with its horrendous plot for Malaysia and denounced critics as liars. SUARAM welcomes the European Parliament’s call for the Government of Malaysia to withdraw the bill immediately and seconds the motion calling for the government to maintain balance between the need to safeguard the national security and the civil and political rights.
Further, the resolution urged the Government of Malaysia to immediately release all the political detainees including Anwar Ibrahim and to drop all politically motivated charges, including against Zunar, Khalid Ismath, Azmi Sharom, Khairuddin Abu Hassan, Matthias Chang, Lena Hendry and Maria Chin Abdullah. The detention and prosecution of human rights defender mentioned above have contributed to a rapidly declining state of affairs for human rights and democracy in Malaysia. Despite the concern expressed by Malaysian from all walks of life, the Government of Malaysia has wilfully chosen to ignore the needs and welfare of Malaysians and proceed with its oppressive policies of silencing all critics.
Lastly, the resolution echoes the demand by civil societies in Malaysia and urged the Malaysian Government to “to repeal the Sedition Act and to bring all legislation, including the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Communications and Multimedia Act, the Peaceful Assembly Act, and other relevant provisions of the penal code, in line with international standards on freedom of expression and assembly and the protection of human rights; calls on the Malaysian authorities to facilitate peaceful assemblies, and to guarantee the safety of all participants and their freedom of expression across the whole country”.
SUARAM calls on both EU Member States to acknowledge the European Parliament resolution and to: “to coordinate policies towards Malaysia, in line with the EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights, in order to encourage reform on the above issues of concern through all possible means, including in the context of the UN where Malaysia is a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2015-2016”. The resolution also reiterates a key demand of SUARAM by calling “the Commission to make sure that human rights concerns are duly taken into account during future negotiations on an EU-Malaysia FTA and PCA”.
The contempt for human rights and democracy shown by the Government of Malaysia is at best repulsive and reprehensible and at worst inhumane and tyrannical. Despite the dire predicament that surrounds Malaysia, the Prime Minister chose to ignore all criticism and continue to exercise his oppressive policies through his private council and loyalist. For this to change, the world must stand behind Malaysians in the call for reform.SUARAM implore all international actor to take all possible diplomatic measure to help put an end to the juggernaut of injustice that the Government of Malaysia have become.
Final Resolution available at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2015-0465+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN
FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
and its member organization for Malaysia
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
Joint press release
Paris, Kuala Lumpur, 10 December 2015: Malaysian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and allow him to receive proper medical attention, FIDH and its member organization Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) said today on the 10-month anniversary of Anwar’s latest imprisonment. Anwar is currently incarcerated in Sungai Buloh prison, Selangor State.
“The ongoing detention of Anwar Ibrahim is the tip of the iceberg of the government’s ongoing crackdown against political opponents and critics. Anwar’s immediate and unconditional released would be a positive first step towards addressing the deteriorating human rights situation in Malaysia,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.
On 10 February 2015, the Federal Court in Putrajaya upheld the Court of Appeals’ conviction of Anwar on charges of sodomy (Article 377 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to five years in prison. Anwar’s Imprisonment was the result of a politically motivated prosecution that resulted in criminal proceedings that failed to meet international standards of fair trial. FIDH observed the Court of Appeals’ and Federal Court’s hearings of Anwar’s trial.
On 21 October 2015, in a decision on Malaysia issued at its 197th session, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) said it feared that Anwar’s conviction “may be based on considerations other than legal.”
In an opinion issued at its 73rd session on 1 September 2015, the UN 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. In addition, the UNWGAD’s opinion considered that Anwar’s treatment during his detention “may have violated the prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 5 of the UDHR [Universal Declaration of Human Rights].”
The former opposition leader has faced difficulties receiving proper medical attention in Sungai Buloh prison. Anwar’s supervising doctor in the prison, appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, has repeatedly denied him access to recommended regular and intensive physiotherapy for a serious shoulder injury, which has worsened since his detention. The denial of adequate medical care runs counter to international norms. Article 22(2) of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states that “sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals.”
Anwar also suffers from chronic arthritis, gastritis, irregular blood pressure, intestinal bleeding, and has a growth on his kidney. His prison doctor has denied him timely access to doctors of his choice and necessary medical testing.
Since early September, prison authorities have restricted Anwar’s access to his lawyers to one hour per week, despite the fact that he is involved in at least 16 ongoing court cases as plaintiff or defendant. This restriction is a breach of his fundamental rights guaranteed under Malaysian law and the Malaysian Constitution, and is against international standards. Principle 18 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment states that an imprisoned person “shall be allowed adequate time” for consultation with his legal counsel.
In addition, the Ministry of Home Affairs has denied several foreign embassies and organizations prison visits to Anwar. On 5 November 2015, Malaysia’s Prison Affairs Division, under the Ministry of Home Affairs Ministry, rejected a request to visit Anwar made by FIDH three days earlier. No explanation was given for the denial of the visit.
“The persecution of Anwar Ibrahim did not end with his conviction ten months ago – it is continuing behind bars. It’s time for the authorities to immediately put an end all acts of harassment against him,” said SUARAM Executive Director Sevan Doraisamy.
FIDH and SUARAM demand Malaysian authorities guarantee Anwar his prisoner rights, including the rights to receive adequate medical care and access to a legal counsel, in accordance with relevant international standards.
FIDH: Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) – Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok)
FIDH: Mr. Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) – Tel: +33672284294 (Paris)
SUARAM: Mr. Sevan Doraisamy – Tel: +60377843525
Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser on Human Rights Day, 10 December 2015
Malaysian society is fast becoming an Orwellian dystopia in which labels such as ‘moderates’, ‘extremists’, ‘national security’, ‘national harmony’, ‘sedition’, and even ‘sabotage of the economy’ and ‘parliamentary democracy’ have become relative (Doublespeak) and imprecise, depending on how they are defined by the state and the judiciary.
The Malaysian Government has added to this dystopia by introducing yet another unjustified draconian law, ‘The National Security Council Bill’ with measures equivalent to those following the declaration of a state of Emergency, all in the name of protecting ‘national security’. The Malaysian Government’s human rights record for 2015 is already appalling, even prior to the tabling of this Emergency-like law, given the range of detention-without-trial laws including SOSMA, POCA, POTA and DDA, other “catch-all” laws such as the Sedition Act and the arbitrary actions of enforcement personnel.
And if the promise made by then Home Minister Tun Razak in 1960 that the ISA would never be abused could not be kept, what value is the word of the former anti-corruption activist (FACA) Minister in the PM’s Department that the new NSCB will not be abused!
Detention without trial laws invariably abused by the State
Just as the ISA was abused manifold, the relatively new SOSMA has been blatantly abused in the case of Khairuddin and Mathias Chang when they were held for “attempted sabotage of the Malaysian economy” for having made reports about the mismanagement of 1MDB and the depositing of RM2.6 billion into the Prime Minister’s personal account. They were initially even denied bail but subsequently this was allowed by the High Court because it was judged that theirs was “not a security offence”.
Just as it was argued by the Alliance /BN government for decades that the ISA was essential to neutralize the threat posed by the Opposition, the government now justifies detention without trial as an essential means to counter the threat of international terrorism by groups such as IS.
While SUARAM vehemently condemns the terrorism and barbarism of groups such as IS we are equally as concerned about upholding human rights and the rule of law in our country. In principle, we condemn the use of detention without trial and recent cases have shown that it is possible to bring alleged terrorists to justice by trying them in open court. We would remind Malaysians that even in the countries of the West that are under terrorist attacks, they do not have detention without trial laws directed at their own citizens.
We would also like to urge politicians on both sides of the political divide not to rely on McCarthyist methods to demonise their political opponents by imputing that the latter have been “infiltrated by IS” and calling for the police to investigate as was done by a Parti Amanah leader recently. This is reminiscent of the sixties when opponents of the Socialist Front would allege that the SF had been infiltrated by the CPM. Any allegations of terrorist connections must be backed up by solid evidence and proof. Failure to do so is grossly irresponsible and brings us closer to being a police state.
The plight of Rohingya ‘boat people’ a humanitarian disaster
The tragedy of Rohingya refugees being stranded in the Andaman Sea in 2015 was bad enough but the refusal of Malaysia and other regional authorities to take them in was a human rights abomination of major proportions. The numbers stranded aboard rickety ships was estimated to be in the thousands. Despite a plea from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, urging Southeast Asian leaders to uphold “international law” and “the obligation of rescue at sea,” Malaysia refused to accept these “boat people” who were suffering from rapidly dwindling provisions.
The Malaysian government did not engage in any search and rescue efforts to provide desperately needed aid at sea nor did they allow migrants to land on offshore islands for such aid. The Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Jaafar said the surge of refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh seeking asylum in Malaysia was unwelcome and his government would turn back any illegal arrivals.
The attitude of Penang Deputy Chief Minister to the plight of the Rohingya boatpeople was just as disappointing. He had criticised the Federal Government’s move to house the Rohingya boatpeople in Penang as another politically motivated ‘Project IC’. As a former radical upwardly mobile person (FRUMP) the Pakatan Rakyat leader should have shown more humanitarian concern for the welfare of the boatpeople and could have used Penang state government resources to provide food and drink to these desperate people.
Malaysia’s response was in sharp contrast to the attitude of the European countries such as Germany and the Italians in the island of Lampedusa who have shown a commendable humanitarian effort to accept the thousands of refugees fleeing the war in Syria.
How does discovery of mass graves square with Tier 2 status?
The discovery of multiple mass graves (139) by the Malaysian police and the uncovering of 28 suspected human trafficking camps located about 500 metres from the country’s northern border makes us skeptical of the decision by the US to upgrade Malaysia to Tier 2 status in the US Human Trafficking Report for 2015. The dense jungles of southern Thailand and northern Malaysia have been a major route for human traffickers bringing Rohingyas from Burma.
From press reports, local people have been aware of atrocities in the border area for years and it is incumbent on the Government to explain why the police and security forces have been unable to apprehend these human traffickers all these years when they could deal with the greater challenge of the insurgency during the Emergency.
Human rights compromised by the TPPA?
Until very recently Malaysia was ranked as one of the countries with the worst human trafficking ranking in the eyes of the U.S. State Department, a ranking which bars such countries from entering into the TPPA deal. Is it coincidental that the 2015 upgrade to Tier 2 status should happen just as the US government is trying very hard to accommodate Malaysia in the TPPA? If not, how is this upgrade justified in the light of the grisly mass graves discovered in 2015? There had been speculation that Malaysia would remain at Tier 3 because, despite a rise in investigations Malaysia’s conviction rate had apparently fallen even lower than before.
“If true, this manipulation of Malaysia’s ranking in the State Department’s 2015 TIP report would be a perversion of the trafficking list and undermine both the integrity of this important report as well as the very difficult task of confronting states about human trafficking,” said Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, who had pushed to bar Tier 3 countries from inclusion in the trade pact.” (Reuters, 9 July 2015)
Another apparent compromise by the US Government in getting Malaysia to sign the TPPA is the surprising decision by the US that Putrajaya’s pro-Bumiputera policies will not be affected in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). United States Trade Representative Michael Froman said at a forum in 2015 that this is a “sovereign decision”. Froman said the US recognises that each country in the agreement has its own way of dealing poverty and growth, amid fears by pro-Malay groups that the TPPA will erode Bumiputera privileges. If this is allowed to pass, the Malaysian government can also justify denying better labour standards to workers on the basis of its “sovereign decision”.
It is clear that the US government is eluding the question of whether some of these so-called “Bumiputera privileges” amount to racial discrimination and whether in fact they violate international human rights principles. I would refer the US Government to the article by former Ambassador to Malaysia, John Malott, ‘The Price of Malaysia’s Racism’ in The Wall Street Journal on 8 February 2011.
It is facile for the US to say that any country’s policy is a “sovereign decision” in their attempt to bulldoze the TPPA. If that is so then the US should also respect President Assad’s “sovereign decision” in Syria and President Mugabe’s in Zimbabwe and the US and their coalition should not have invaded Iraq in the first place in 2003.
Is it also Malaysia’s “sovereign decision” to continue to incarcerate the former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim even when the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has condemned his arbitrary detention and called for his immediate release?
Trade agreements should integrate human rights standards
Proposals to integrate human rights standards into trade agreements are nothing new. United Nations institutions would be the appropriate international adjudication to establish, definitively, which countries should and which should not be considered human rights violators. In fact, the US has always behaved with considerable ambivalence toward international norms and for decades the Senate simply refused to ratify any of these conventions.
Thus, it is actually the United States that has been unwilling to submit to constraints on its sovereignty. We certainly do not have any illusions about US intervention especially since the US used the pretext of bringing democracy to the Iraqi people as a reason to invade Iraq. This has made the rest of the world associate the idea of a “good intentioned intervention” with western abuses of power. For a better world order, the United States must change its policies to keep in step with world opinion and so must the Malaysian Government which to this day has failed to ratify many vital international treaties.
Human rights are guaranteed in our Federal Constitution
Far from being in conflict with our national sovereignty, human rights are actually the cornerstone of the rule of law and state sovereignty of Malaysia. Part II on ‘Fundamental Liberties’ in our Federal Constitution spells out unequivocally the human rights of Malaysians. They are an essential tool enabling states to ensure that every person can live with dignity, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or other status. Most important of all, these international and inviolable principles empower citizens and human rights advocates such as SUARAM, to participate actively in shaping domestic development for the good of all.
Unfortunately, many of our human rights have been unceremoniously overridden through decades of constitutional amendments by the ruling BN coalition. This is how crypto-Emergency rule, detention without trial and other violations of our fundamental freedoms have defiled Malaysian democracy, rapidly transforming Malaysian society into a police state.