[JOINT PRESS STATEMENT]: International Conference Organizers Turn Blind Eye to Sarawak Energy’s Complicity in Environmental Destruction and Rights Violations

Joint Press Statement by SUARAM, Save Rivers, Jaringan Orang Asal Se-Malaysia, Asia Indigenous People’s Pact and Bruno Manser Funds.

Kuala Lumpur – As the International New York Times’ Energy for Tomorrow Conference gets underway at the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur, human rights and environmental groups will be outside raising concerns about the ethics of the meeting’s main corporate sponsor, Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB). The two day meeting is bringing together business interests, government officials and representatives of multilateral institutions, including the Asian Development Bank, to discuss clean energy options for the Asian region. However, the gold sponsor of the event, Malaysian power supplier and dam developer, SEB, has no track record of pursuing sustainable energy projects. To the contrary, SEB has gained a national and international reputation for complicity in rampant human rights abuses, environmental destruction, disrespect for native customary rights, and in acts of corruption.

“The conference organizers say the meeting today will open up a debate on the theme of ‘powering sustainable development’. Yet, they appear to have turned a blind eye to the reputation of their primary sponsor, SEB. This is a company that has been violating rights enshrined in our national constitution. SEB’s outright disrespect for the law of the land – most particularly shown in the push to develop the Baram Dam on Native Customary Rights land without the consent of the rightful landowners – does not deserve to be condoned, but should rather be condemned during a discussion about the region’s power development options,” explained Serene Lim of the national human rights organization, SUARAM.

Added Thomas Jalong, president of the national indigenous peoples’ network, Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS), and resident of Baram,“It is disappointing that a reputable organization like the International New York Times would not have considered the implications of featuring SEB as their main sponsor and its Norwegian CEO Torstein Dale Sjotveit as a panelist. SEB’s total disregard for Sarawak’s vast biological diversity, ecologically and culturally significant places, and indigenous peoples’ rights, disingenuous engagement with project affected communities and right holders, and drive to pursue quick profits at the expense of future generations should not be overlooked by conference participants and organizers. We are making our voices heard outside the conference, as regrettably, for such an important meeting, no representatives of indigenous communities or from civil society organizations have been invited to the table.”

“SEB’s Murum Dam has forced 1,300 people off their customary lands and into resettlement areas where the living conditions are so deplorable that they have been investigated by the Malaysian Bar Council and the national human rights commission, SUHAKAM. The Murum Dam is also beset by technical problems that mean it is currently not functional. Now, SEB is proposing to build the Baram Dam, which would displace up to 20,000 people. Even though SEB is attempting to greenwash its image at the ‘Energy for Tomorrow Conference’, the company is not an environmental business pioneer, nor an innovator of clean energy solutions. To avoid complicity in such violations of internationally recognized indigenous peoples’ rights, businesses and investors present at the New York Times conference should refrain from supporting SEB’s current and planned hydro-generation and transmission projects,” said Tanya Lee of International Rivers.

According to Peter Kallang, chair of the Save Sarawak Rivers Network, “SEB is prepared to destroy our collective heritage: our rivers, the land and our livelihoods. For over a year, the people of Baram have set up barricades to demonstrate our overwhelming opposition to their proposed project. If SEB wants to join the ranks of environmentally and socially accountable companies, a first step would be to respond to the concerns of communities displaced by the Murum Dam, withdraw their proposal to build the Baram Dam, return native customary rights land that has been illegally acquired, seek free, prior and informed consent for all dams proposed as part of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), as well as comply with standards for doing and disclosing impact assessments.”

During the past month, over forty NGOs from around the world raised the issue of reputational risk involved in a loan being offered to SEB by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). They have warned the ADB that SEB systematically violates indigenous peoples’ rights, is marred by charges of corruption and promotes environmentally destructive hydroelectric dams, against the will of affected people. They have accordingly called on the ADB’s management, including its Board of Governors and Board of Directors, to urgently withdraw the proposed loan from the bank’s portfolio.

Joan Carling, secretary general of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) concluded, “When power grids and power projects are built, they affect indigenous peoples’ land and livelihoods. Industry best practice and international law require consent from all affected indigenous peoples’ groups. SEB is one company that has been exposed for systematically disrespecting free, prior and informed consent. The legacy of massive human rights violations wrought by large dams and related infrastructures to indigenous peoples are being ignored by the government of Malaysia and SEB. ‘Business as usual’ to ensure mega-profits and kickbacks for politicians in the name of development underpins these kinds of projects.  On behalf of our 47 member organizations across Asia, AIPP expresses its serious concern that Asian governments, companies, the ADB and other financial institutions continue to disregard the right of affected indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent for projects that affect them.”

Mahkamah Majistret Perlu Ambil Kira Hak Keluarga Dalam Inkues Kematian Cheah Chin Lee

Suaram menyeru pihak Mahkamah Majistret Georgetown agar menyemak dan menilai semula keputusannya menolak permohonan keluarga Cheah Chin Lee untuk mendapat salinan nota keterangan ataupun rakaman CRT berkenaan inkues kematian Cheah Chin Lee dalam lokap polis.

Kami juga ingin mensyorkan kepada Mahkamah Majistret Georgetwon supaya membenarkan peguam keluarga si-mati untuk membuat penghujahan pada penghujung perbicaraan kes inkues Cheah Chin Lee sebelum mahkamah membuat keputusan dalam inkues ini.

Keputusan Mahkamah Majistret 1, Georgetown pada 26 September 2014 lalu berkaitan kematian Cheah Chin Lee pada Ogos 2012 adalah satu tindakan yang tidak munasabah, tidak telus dan juga tidak adil kepada keluarga si-mati.

Keluarga si-mati dan peguam mereka dapat membantu pihak mahkamah untuk mencari punca sebenar kematian Cheah Chin Lee. Adalah juga menjadi hak keluarga Cheah Chin Lee untuk mendapat salinan nota keterangan ataupun rakaman CRT inkues. Kepentingan keluarga juga perlu diwakili melalui peguam mereka kerana ahli keluarga mereka yang mati dalam kes ini. Pihak mahkamah sewajarnya memikirkan keadaan keluarga yang telah ditimpa musibah yang menyedihkan akibat kematian.

Sebagai seorang individu yang bertanggungjawab menguruskan perbicaraan, hakim mempunyai tanggungjawab yang amat penting dan berat dan beliau perlu bertindak dengan telus supaya tidak timbul perkara yang boleh diragukan. Dalam setiap pengadilan yang adil, setiap pihak dalam perbicaraan berhak mendapat informasi penuh tentang prosiding inkues dan pembelaan yang adil dan telus tanpa apa-apa prejudis.

Keputusan Mahkamah Majistret Georgetown menolak permohonan keluarga si-mati telah menimbulkan tanda-tanda tanya kerana tiada apa-apa batasan undang-undang yang menghalang atau tidak membolehkan daripada permohonan itu dipenuhi. Persoalannya apakah masalah salinan nota prosiding inkues diberikan kepada keluarga si-mati dan peguam mereka diberi peluang terakhir untuk membuat penghujahan bagi pihak keluarga dan membantu pihak mahkamah mencari kebenaran? Adakah keputusan ini adil dari segi undang-undang?

Perbicaraan inkues Cheah Chin Lee akan diteruskan pada 18 dan 19 November 2014 di Mahkamah Majistret 1, Georgetown, Pulau Pinang. Suaram akan terus memantau prosiding kes ini dan turut hadir bersolidariti menyatakan sokongan kepada keluarga si mati.

Untuk maklumat lanjut dan sebarang pertanyaan hubungi:

1.       Mr. Yap Swee Seng, Pengarah Eksekutif, +60122015272 atau [email protected]

2.       Mr. Tarmizi Anuwar, Koordinator Program Hak kepada Keadilan, +60136848313 atau [email protected]

NOMINATION DEADLINE FOR SUARAM 16th HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD EXTENDED TO 21 NOVEMBER 2014

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) is pleased to announce that the deadline for submission of nomination for the SUARAM 16th Human Rights Award 2014 has been extended for one more week. The new deadline for submission of nomination is 21 November 2014.

Only communities or grouping of peoples are eligible for nomination. Nomination of an individual will not be accepted.  All nominations must be sent by email to [email protected] or by post or hand delivery to Suara Rakyat Malaysia,

433A, Jalan 5/46, Gasing Indah, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

The selection of the winner of this award is based on three criteria:

  • Community or group of people which has struggled persistently and fearlessly in defending their rights, justice and dignity against oppression
  • Organization and leadership of the people which has empowered and activated their people in the process of struggle and to continue in their efforts to promote and protect human rights
  • Preference will be given to those who have made an impact in the current year

Progress for human rights has always been an uphill battle and it is necessary for human rights organisations to show solidarity supports for one another. The annual SUARAM Human Rights Award seeks to give recognition to NGO, local communities, and collectives in their outstanding and inspiring endeavours to protect and promote human rights activism in Malaysia.

This year, 15 years after the inaugural award was presented in 1999, SUARAM once again is proud to call for nominations for this award.

In deciding the winner, the judges will consider the impact, struggles, hardships that the community, group of people or organisations had been through in promoting, protecting and defending rights, justice and dignity against oppressions and all adversities.

The winner of the award will be announced at the launch of SUARAM Human Rights Overview 2014, to be held on 9th December 2014.

Previous winners of the award include:

1999    : The people of Kampung Sungai Nipah

2000    : The Reformasi Movement

2001    : Save Our Schools Damansara and wives of ISA detainees (joint winners)

2002    : Police Watch & Human Rights Committee

2003    : The former plantation workers’ community of Ladang Braemar

2004    : The Kuala Kuang villagers and the workers of Euromedical Industries (joint winners)

2005    : The Temuan Orang Asli Community from Kampung Bukit Tampoi in Dengkil

2006    : The Chin Refugee Committee and the Bukit Jelutong plantation community (joint winners)

2007    : The Coalition against Healthcare Privatisation and the residents of Kampung Sungai Terentang, Rawang (joint winners)

2008    : The Penan community of Ulu Baram, Sarawak and the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) (joint winners)

2009    : Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI)

2010    : Sg. Rinching Action Committee

2011    : Bersih 2.0 Working Committee and Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas (SMSL) (joint winners)

2012    : Himpunan Hijau and the Murum and Baram communities

2013    : Taskforce Against Kaiduan Dam and Taman Permata Dengkil committee (joint winners)

 

For more information on the criteria, nomination and selection process of Suaram annual human rights award 2014, please click the following link:

SUARAM HRA 2014

Public members may also contact Serene Lim at [email protected] or 03-77843525 for more information.

 

Released by,

 

Serene Lim

Coordinator

 

[SUARAM PRESS STATEMENT] – DEPLORABLE HARASSMENT AGAINST ZUNAR AND HIS TEAM

For immediate release

13 November 2014

 

DEPLORABLE HARASSMENT AGAINST ZUNAR AND HIS TEAM

 

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) decries the unrelenting harassment and persecution by government against political cartoonist Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, or better known by his pen name Zunar. We demand the police and Home Minister to uphold Zunar’s constitutional right to express his ideas and cease all harassment against Zunar, three of his assistants, webmaster, printers and bookstore vendors.

 

For the longest time, Zunar has been attacked by the police and the Home Ministry for producing cartoons that were purported to be detrimental to public order. More than 400 copies of his books were confiscated and five of his books titled “Perak Darul Kartun”, “1 Funny Malaysia”, “Isu Dalam Kartun” Vol. 1, 2 and 3 were banned by the Home Minister from 2009 to 2010. Government’s determination to persecute Zunar was extended to printers, vendors and bookstores around the country – their places were raided and they were warned to not print and carry any of Zunar’s book in future.

 

And of late, on 6 November 2014, Zunar’s assistants – Rizaldy Rafie, Raja Norita and Norliza Kassim were arrested and taken to Putrajaya police station for selling two purported controversial cartoon books by Zunar titled ” Konspirasi Memenjarakan Anwar” and “Pirate of the Carry-BN”.  44 copies of Zunar’s cartoons book were again confiscated by the police and Zunar’s assistant were all probed under Section 8(2) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948, and Section 500 of the Penal Code.

 

Soon after that, on 12 November 2014, Zunar was informed by the police to come forward for an investigation at Dang Wangi police station, under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act for allegedly publishing seditious content in his cartoon books. This is the second sedition investigation against Zunar. His webmaster, who has been managing his website and online bookstore, has been called by the police for investigation under the Sedition Act in the same day too.

 

The police’s action went against the recent stand took by Court of Appeals. A month earlier, the Court of Appeal took an unanimous stand and lifted a ban imposed by Home Minister on two of Zunar’s cartoon books “Perak Darul Kartun” and “1 Funny Malaysia” on grounds that they were not a threat to national security or prejudicial to public order. In delivering his judgement, Justice Mohamad Ariff stated that the law should not be abused by executive and that public odium cannot be so conveniently equated with public order.

 

Nevertheless, the Home Ministry, on a letter dated 10 November 2014, informed Zunar and his lawyer that they are appealing at Federal Court to have the Court of Appeal’s decision struck out, insisting that Zunar’s cartoon satire is prejudicial to public order.

 

Under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, our forefather has provided that every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and restriction is deemed necessary only if the act threatens the interest of national security, public order or morality that should be narrowly defined in line with international human rights law. For this, it goes against logic and common sense to hold that Zunar’s cartoons political satire can be purported as detrimental to public order, morality and certainly not national security.

 

No one should be subjected to intimidation, criminalisation and imprisonment for producing satirist cartoons which is a legitimate expression of political opinions through the form of art. Any reasonable reader would be mature and open-minded enough to draw a line between facts and jokes. The government is projecting itself as a repressive, tyrannical and narrow-minded leader by putting forward these unrelenting attacks on Zunar and his teams.

 

While the government refused to recognise and appreciate Zunar’s work, in 2011, Zunar was conferred “Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award” by the Cartoonist Rights Network International, a cartoonists’ rights NGO based in Washington, USA. And again in October 2014, one of Zunar’s book, “Pirate of the Carry-BN” has been accepted into the Library of Congress in Washington.

 

Freedom of expression is a defining attribute of democratic states and political satire is a bellwether of the extend of openness of a country. As firm believer in rights to freedom of expression, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) is hereby calling the government to:

 

  1. Cease all harassment and investigation on Zunar, three of his assistants for Zunar’s cartoons books and his webmaster.
  2. Stop intimidating printers, publishers, vendors and bookstore owners from partnering with Zunar.
  3. Lift ban on all Zunar’s cartoon book and to return all confiscated books.
  4. Respect freedom of expression and repeal the Sedition Act.

 

 

Released by,

Yap Swee Seng

Executive Director

[PRESS STATEMENT] – END PERSECUTION AGAINST STUDENT AND DEFEND ACADEMIC FREEDOM

For immediate release

10 November 2014

 

END PERSECUTION AGAINST STUDENT AND DEFEND ACADEMIC FREEDOM

 

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) is extremely concerned with the ceaseless harassment and oppression by police, university authorities and government towards our young university student for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

University is rightfully a place of learning and intellectual exchange and the students should have the freedom to teach or communicate ideas and current issues concerning their future without being targeted for repression, job loss and certainly not imprisonment. Further, rights to freedom of expression and assembly are clearly embedded in our Federal Constitution. It is illogical and nonsensical to criminalise an act that is fundamentally permitted by our constitution.

The harassment against student are largely due to the existence of Akta Universiti dan Kolej Universiti 1974 (AUKU), which forbids university students from being radically involved in politics. In a memorandum submitted to SUHAKAM on 5 June 2014 by Gerakan Mahasiswa Mansuhkan AUKU/Akta 1974 and 12 civil society organisations including SUARAM, 24 students were reported to have face disciplinary actions under AUKU for the first half year of 2014. All for allegedly tarnishing the university’s image as a result of their involvement in various political, economic and social issue, including protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, death sentence against 183 individuals in Egypt, shrinking of natural rubber prices globally etc.

Over the years, we have seen how AUKU has been used to restrict students’ activities, especially when it contravenes and threatens the status quo of the ruling coalition. Section 15 of AUKU vested huge discretionary power in the hand of vice chancellor of university to take disciplinary action against students found participated in political activities which in his judgment, is purported to “unsuitable to the interest and well-being of the students or the University”.

For the longest time, the university has been curtailing academic freedom – Dato’ Ambiga Sreevenasan, MP Tony Pua, filmmaker Fahmi Reza, and of late, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim were all consistently banned from speaking within the premises of Universiti Malaya. The reason given by the authorities –  allowing the talk will tarnish the university image – is uncalled for. As a human rights NGOs, we do not see the basis for this fear. It raises profound questions on the presence of political power play by the executive and ruling coalition within the sanctity of university.

Worst still, the interference of police in the recent students assembly in university is greatly disappointing and worrying. It goes against the very fundamental role of what a university should be – an environment that nurture critical thinking and allows of exchange of ideas and opinions. The involvement of police during a peaceful student assembly is unwarranted and strengthen public conviction of rampaged abuses of power by the executive  to penalise anyone that is critical towards the establishment.

The recent attack against student has escalated since Persatuan Mahasiswa Universiti Malaya’s (PMUM) event of 27 October, “40 Tahun dari UM ke Penjara”, featuring UM alumnus Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, was declared illegal by the Student Affairs Division. Subsequent to the event, the university has taken disciplinary action against 8 Universiti Malaya students under AUKU and the president of Persatuan Mahasiswa University Malaya (PMUM), Fahmi Zaninol was investigated by police for illegal assembly.

On 9 November 2014, 10 students from different university were harassed by Sabah police officers for giving a speech at Jalan Gaya, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. And again on the same the day, the students were ejected from the University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) campus, halting them from attending a scheduled talk on student autonomy in the campus. The students were then taken to the Karamunsing police station for their second statement in Sabah.

The recent measures taken by UM and the police to halt students from public talk is damaging to academic freedom and image of our public universities.

Nevertheless, the country is seeing the silver linings of these oppression in the rise of student activism against all adversities and their dauntless spirit against oppressive authorities in defending our democratic space and fundamental liberties.

In view of the recent development, SUARAM calls for the following demands:

  1.  Public university to safeguard academic freedom and to ensure the sanctity of the university as a mature environment that encourages diversity in growth of ideas and opinions is safeguarded.
  2. University authorities to cease and drop all disciplinary action against students exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
  3.  University authorities must defend the autonomy of university from political and police intervention and not to instil a culture of fear and threat against students who speak up.
  4. Parliament to repeal AUKU immediately and to not have any similar provision that goes against students’ fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly under the Federal Constitution.

 

Released by,

Yap Swee Seng

Executive Director

 

For inquiry, please contact:

Mr. Yap Swee Seng, executive director at +60 12 2015272 or [email protected]