SUARAM 30 YEARS DEFENDING HUMAN RIGHTS IN MALAYSIA

Speech by Kua Kia Soong at the 30th Anniversary function of SUARAM, 4 Dec 2019

SUARAM was born under the shadow of the ISA. Detention-without-trial has been the favourite tool of repression used by the Malaysian state to arrest and detain persons indefinitely without trial ever since its legislation in 1960. Under the rule of Prime Minister Mahathir from 1981, authoritarian measures have included detention without trial, restrictions on the mass media, the assault on the judiciary in 1988, and the centralization of power in the Executive.  Operation Lalang in October 1987 produced an unprecedented coalition of democratic forces that emerged to fight for the release of the detainees. It also ignited a new effort among families of the detainees and their support group to provide support for the detainees as well as to campaign for their release. The comradeship among the families and their supporters among the NGOs was crucial in sustaining the anti-ISA campaign. The legacy of this support group and its working method provided the motivating force for the formation of SUARAM in 1989.

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