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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Lenggeng detainees in a state of tension

Lenggeng detainees in a state of tension
Fauwaz Abdul Aziz | Apr 24, 08 2:15pm
Overcrowding in the Lenggeng immigration depot - scene of a riot last weekend - is causing the foreign detainees held there to be in a 'state of tension', said Suhakam commissioner N Sivasubramaniam today.

suhakam lenggeng camp visit 240408 03At the time of the riot, the facility was bursting at its seams with 1,090 detainees from 14 countries and suffered from chronic disruptions of water supply - two to three times a month - each disruption lasting for up to three days.

The human rights commissioner came to these preliminary findings following a visit to the detention centre this morning.

The riot occurred last Sunday in which about 60 detainees reportedly tried to pull down the perimeter fence and afterwards torched an administration building.

“Too many detainees, their accommodation, their food, management of these detainees, water supply. These are the root issues,” Siva told a press conference at the depot after the visit.

Inexperienced personnel

Citing newspaper reports, Siva conceded that a number of the 17 depots, including Lenggeng, were veritable 'time bombs'.

On the dire lack of personnel to manage and guard the facility, Siva said out of a total of 208 positions that are supposed to be filled by Immigration Department personnel, only 40 posts have been taken.

lenggeng detention camp myanmar burmese detainees incarcerated 220408Of these, many of them were fresh from their recruitment interviews, he said.

“They recently came from their (respective) villages or city homes and posted here, without enough training to manage certain situations (when they arise),” said Siva.

While the detainees did indeed hold a hunger strike on April 3, Siva said Suhakam has yet to be presented with evidence of any physical abuse of the detainees by voluntary law enforcement corps Rela personnel who are guarding the depot.

“There was a hunger strike, (but it was) generally because of their living conditions,” he said.

“At this time, there is no evidence (of beatings). But if we can be given evidence, we will investigate,” he said.

He also said there was no evidence to suggest any such beatings led to Sunday’s riot.

“We don’t want to make assumptions about this case because it is currently being investigated by the police,” he added.

suhakam lenggeng camp visit 240408 04(Siva later told Malaysiakini that Suhakam was “taking the claim (of assaults) seriously” and called for any parties with information on the matter to come forward.)

He noted, however, that there was a lot of “suspicions” on the part of the detainees towards Rela personnel guarding the depot because the former felt the Rela guards were “the same people who caught them in the first place”.

“Rela personnel are good intentioned when carrying out their tasks. It is the perception towards them (that needs to be redressed),” he said.

Make drastic changes

Since the riot, said Siva, the authorities have moved the male detainees to several other depots and this has alleviated the immediate stresses on the facility.

The incident, nevertheless, accords the opportunity for all quarters responsible to come together to address the overall issues and problems that have plagued immigration depots, he said.

suhakam lenggeng camp visit 240408 01“We can only overcome this situation by getting assistance and support from all parties involved. This is incident opportunity to make drastic changes,” said Siva.

For this purpose, Suhakam hopes to have a roundtable discussion with representatives from the Home Ministry, Rela, Immigration Department as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Negeri Sembilan police had earlier suggested that among the reasons for Monday’s riot was that the detainees were angry at the authorities after their application for resettlement to a third country had been denied.

Met after the press conference, depot commandant Abdul Aziz Mansur denied the detainees are violently treated by either Rela personnel or immigration officers.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Warrior mosquito plan under fire

Everyone knows the danger of releasing genetically modified beings into our environment - how could our government even come up with such an idea. Mother nature and our eco-system are very delicate...

Warrior mosquito plan under fire
Apr 27, 08 5:40pm

Environmentalists have condemned a trial plan to deploy millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in Malaysia to fight dengue fever, a report said today.

Malaysia has expressed concern about the insect-borne scourge after 25 people were killed in the first three months of the year.

The New Sunday Times newspaper said the genetically modified (GM) male mosquitoes will be first freed in Pulau Ketam, a fishing village south of Kuala Lumpur, in an attempt to kill Aedes mosquitoes which spread dengue fever.

Environmental groups, however, oppose the plan.

"Like all GM organisations, once they have been released in the wild, how do you prevent them from interacting with other insects and produce mutants which may be worse than the Aedes mosquito," said Gurmit Singh, chairperson of the Center for Environment Technology and Development.

Dengue is endemic to Malaysia, which has seen a rise of 16 percent in cases every year since 2003, according to the government.

Fatalities from dengue in Malaysia reached record levels in 2004, when 102 people died.

Lethal genes

Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said in the first three months of 2008, more than 9,800 cases of the mosquito-borne disease were reported, with 25 people killed.

The field trials for the GM mosquitoes will be undertaken by the Malaysian health ministry and British-based Oxiter Ltd, an insect bio-tech company.

The newspaper said lab trials conducted for the first time in the world during the past one year had produced success, and that field testing would begin by early next year.

The technique involves releasing GM-made Aedes mosquitoes to mate with the female mosquitoes of the same type, it said. The lethal genes from the warrior mosquitoes cause the larvae to die.

Only a female mosquito can transmit dengue fever because it has a proboscis that can pierce the skin.

-AFP

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Plight of the ‘modern slaves’

Plight of the ‘modern slaves’


Sunday, 27 April 2008 09:47am
Renuka T. Balasubramaniam
Renuka T. Balasubramaniam

©New Sunday Times
by R.S. Kamini

Foreign workers trapped in a 'no-win' situation
Harun - from legal to illegal overnight

KUALA LUMPUR:Foreign national Deluar Hossain loves Malaysia but he has bitter memories of the country that will haunt him for a long time.

The Bangladeshi worker, who is in his late 30s, came to Malaysia with the hope of helping his debt-stricken family back home but ended up with nothing to show for it.

Deluar came here in May last year, after having paid close to RM12,000 to an agency that promised him a well-paid job at a construction company in Rawang.

When he arrived in Rawang, he found that he had to share a house with 28 other workers. His first month’s pay was also withheld from him.

Then, he was moved to Johor where he worked for three months without salar y, though he was given RM200 every month that was used mostly to buy food.

Deluar said he had called his family back home to see how they were and became depressed when they asked him about his salary.

He approached his employer and asked for RM750 of his salary to be sent to his family in Bangladesh.

But neither his employer nor the local employment agent paid Deluar any heed.

Frustrated, Deluar sought legal help from Tenaganita but ended up with injuries on his face after some men beat him up for seeing a lawyer.

Deluar’s agent also warned him against going to the authorities and told him that he would not be receiving any pay since he had tried to “act smar t”.

With his visa expiring in two months’ time, Deluar is bent on getting some justice and compensation for all his work and pain.

Deluar is just one of the many foreign workers being victimised by ruthless foreign and local agents that the Migration Working Group (MWG) is trying to help.

MWG, in a forumheld at the Kuala Lumpur Chinese Assembly Hall yesterday, said every migrant worker, asylum seeker and refugee had the right to redress.

Through the forum entitled “The Right to Redress for Migrant Workers and Refugees” the group’s co-ordinator, Alice Nah, said the right to redress for non-citizens was only possible when three rights were recognised, namely the right to be heard, the right to stay and the right to work.

Nah said Malaysia is estimated to have one to two million non-documented workers, in addition to the 2.2 million documented foreign worker s.

“There are also an estimated 100,000 asylum seekers and stateless persons seeking protection but since Malaysia has no legislation on asylum and statelessness, most of these people are treated as non-documented migrants.” Nah said it was difficult for non-documented migrants to get redress.

“Even those with documents find it hard to obtain redress.

“In many cases, when a migrant worker files a suit against his employer, the employer cancels the work permit and he ends up losing his right to stay and work here.” Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez said foreigners who had been forced into prostitution, bonded labour and were smuggled or trafficked or were foreign brides were all considered “moder n day slaves”.

Most had no proper documentation and were being taken advantage of, she said.

Another speaker, Bar Council human rights committee member Renuka T. Balasubramaniam, said language problems and ignorance of human rights were the main barriers for migrant workers seeking redress for injustice.

The government, she said, should also consider setting up a special court for migrants that gives them the right to be heard.

The forum also came up with several proposals, such as recognising refugees through a special card issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Ivy Josiah, the executive director of Women’s Aid Organisation, said her support group and MWG were hoping to meet government officials soon to discuss the status of migrant workers and forward their proposals.


Foreign workers trapped in a 'no-win' situation

TWENTY per cent of Malaysia's workforce are foreign workers. But what happens when a foreign worker is exploited?

Their rightful redress is the Labour Court, but in reality, this avenue is not one of justice for foreign workers.

Bar Council Legal Aid Centre chairman Ravi Nekoo said that while the law allows a foreign worker to stay in the country pending the disposal of his case, the worker is without a job.

Ravi said although foreign workers could file a case at the Labour Court or lodge police reports against their employers, this usually results in their work permits being cancelled by the employers.

"This leaves the migrant worker in a dilemma as he has no right to continue to be in the country without work and the capacity to earn a living," he said.

Yes, Ravi agreed that the foreign worker could apply for a special pass while waiting for his case to be settled. However, he said, the pass did not allow a foreign worker to work in the country.

"So how is he supposed to survive?"

Tenaganita programme officer Florida Sandanasamy said not only does the pass forbid a worker from working, it is only valid for 30 days.

The application for the special pass itself takes months, during which the foreign worker's status is illegal.

The application hits a dead end if the foreign worker does not have his passport.

Sometimes, says Florida, the passport is held by the former employer, which complicates matters.

"Most of them file cases because they have not been paid, and then this," said Florida.

"How can they sustain themselves if they can't work? What is worse is that the special pass costs RM100 a month.

"As a local, I can work while my case is pending. Why shouldn't this apply to foreigners?

"So is justice served? That is the big question."

Florida said the authorities had to stop living in denial, thinking all agents and employers are good.

Ravi said the statistics released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour (United States) on March 6, last year, quotes figures given by the Internal Security Ministry as 42,483 individuals incarcerated in prisons and illegal migrant detention centres in the country.

People, said Ravi, failed to see the contribution foreign workers make to the economy.

"What is their offence? They come here to earn money for their loved ones. They should not be in this country if our economy cannot sustain them. The laws have to be more compassionate."

Immigration Department enforcement director Datuk Ishak Mohamed said they do not allow foreign workers with special passes to work in the country as this would create a loophole for illegals to work.

"I cannot allow them to use the special pass to work and stay for as long as their case is being heard because there are hundreds of thousands of illegals in the country," said Ishak.

"If we allow it, everyone would settle for that option, including refugees, because it is an easy way to get work. We have found a few cases filed in court just for them to obtain a special pass."

Ishak said a special pass is valid for 30 days and renewable up to three times.

"Our position is that 90 days is sufficient for them to file a case, engage a lawyer to represent them and then return to their homes.

"If they want, they can return anytime for their cases."

But how would they survive 90 days without working?

"As far as the Immigration Department is concerned, the 90 days is given on the understanding that the worker's family, good friends, non-governmental organisations, embassies, high commissions or any other person would support him during this period."


Harun - from legal to illegal overnight

HE sold his land for RM7,000 and bid his family goodbye, promising to support his parents and nine siblings in Bangladesh.

He received his visa and work permit before leaving his homeland in 1996.

And after contributing to the Malaysian economy for seven years, he now has sleepless nights and lives in fear of every knock on his door.

This is because 40-year-old Harun (not his real name) has become an illegal immigrant overnight. And all because of the due process of law.

Harun was employed in a plastic moulding factory along with 10 others from Bangladesh.

His salary was first paid to his agent, and after deductions were made, the agent passed what was left to him.

The workers worked for 12 hours a day, and virtually seven days a week. They were not paid overtime or bonuses, and were not allowed annual leave.

They were also deprived of company benefits that were enjoyed by local employees.

This feeling of injustice motivated the 11 employees to take their case to the Labour Court in 2002. But instead of getting what they were owed, their employer cancelled their work permits, rendering them illegal and jobless.

With the help of the Bangladesh High Commission and Tenaganita, Harun and his friends were then granted a special pass, which was renewed continuously until 2006.

Then the Immigration Department stopped renewing the pass.

Harun and his friends are now illegal immigrants, even though their case is on appeal to the High Court.

Now, Harun wants only one thing -- a temporary work permit to survive until his case is settled. But so far, there is no sign of a work permit or the money due to him.

"If I win my case today, I will return home tomorrow. I'm suffering here with no work permit and no job. I live in fear daily," he said.

"At least, when I had the permit I was not so afraid. But of what use is the special pass? To jalan-jalan (roam about)? What do I eat? Air?"

Harun, who has been in Malaysia for 13 years, said he has not done anything wrong since he arrived.

"I am not stealing. I'm just working to survive. I like Malaysia. I love working here, and I have done nothing wrong."

One of the workers in Harun's group, Muhammad, wanted to return to Bangladesh after his special pass had expired. His 80-year-old mother wanted to see him.

Muhammad went to the Immigration Department. He was detained.

They kept him for 12 days before he was deported. He was not allowed to take any of his belongings or savings and returned to Bangladesh, penniless.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Uthaya: Suhakam's conduct deplorable - MADPET

Uthaya: Suhakam's conduct deplorable
Charles Hector | Apr 25, 08 3:48pm

I refer to the Malaysiakini report Suhakam: Uthaya wasn't denied treatment.

Madpet (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is disappointed by the fact that the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) made and pronounced conclusions about complaints about detention conditions and health care of an Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee in Kamunting Detention Centre without even meeting with the said P Uthayakumar.

The Malaysian Human Rights Commission should never come to any conclusion or finding without at least meeting and talking to both sides.

In this case, it was reported that the Suhakam team, led by Human Rights Commissioner Siva Subramaniam, had meetings with ‘…senior officials, the doctor and police personnel at the camp, as well as medical personnel in Taiping hospital’.

It was also reported that ‘Uthayakumar was neither present during the four-hour probe, nor interviewed by the team’. When Siva Subramaniam was asked why Uthayakumar’s side of the story was not heard it was reported, ‘He pointed out that media reports were also sufficient to highlight Uthayakumar’s plight’.

The manner in which this ‘inquiry’ was done and the conclusions reached are very wrong, and is a deprivation of Uthayakumar and his family’s fundamental right to be heard and participate in any inquiry and/or investigation.

Uthayakumar is already a victim of a draconian law that allows for detention without trial - where there is no right to defend oneself; no right to a fair and open trial and no right to even go for judicial review of the alleged reasons for detaining him.

As such, the manner in which Suhakam conducted themselves in this case makes it even more deplorable and is certainly unacceptable behaviour for a national human rights commission.

Madpet seriously hopes that the making of such speedy ‘conclusions - in this case by Commissioner Siva Subramanian - was not affected by the fact that his current term expires in July 2008, and a belief that a ‘pro-government’ positioning now may assist chances of a re-appointment for another two-year term.

Human rights commissioners and Suhakam must at all times be independent and be seen to be independent and fearless and should only be driven by human rights and justice considerations. If a human rights commissioner cannot do this by reason of fear or some other reason, then the proper and ethical thing to do is to resign.

Madpet urges Suhakam to immediately retract its conclusions about the complaints by Uthayakumar, his family and/or his friends as reported in the media, and conduct a proper inquiry into these complaints in the proper manner – which would necessarily include that the fundamental rights to be heard and to participate be accorded to the alleged victim and the complainants.

Madpet also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Uthayakumar and all those currently detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and other laws that allow for detention without trial and that all laws that allow for detention without trial be repealed.

The writer represents Madpet.

Hindraf wants Suhakam commissioner out (malaysiakini)

Hindraf wants Suhakam commissioner out
Syed Jaymal Zahiid | Apr 25, 08 12:12pm

Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) lawyers have accused the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) of deceit and demanded for one of its commissioners to step down.

hindraf to palace 250408  leaders with petitionLawyer N Surendran claimed that Suhakam’s report by commissioner N Siva Subramaniam was utterly incorrect in suggesting that detained Hindraf leader P Uthayakumar is fine.

"It’s a lie. The report is totally incorrect. Uthayakumar is in bad shape. He has been denied medical attention for more than a month now," he told reporters at a Hindraf gathering outside Istana Negara this morning.

About 30 supporters gathered outside the palace gates to submit a memorandum seeking royal intervention for the release of Uthayakumar and four others held under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

The memorandum was handed to a palace official by Vaishnavi, the five-year-old daughter of Hindraf chairperson P Waythamoorthy who is currently in self-exile in London.

'Blatant lie'

hindraf p uthayakumar taiping hospital 170408 03Meanwhile, PKR Kapar MP S Manickvasagam, who was also present, claimed that Uthayakumar’s blood sugar level (right) had increased to a worrying point.

This was caused by deliberate medical negligence on the side of the government, alleged the politician.

Hindraf lawyer and DAP MP for Teluk Intan M Manogaran also lambasted the alleged denial of medical treatment, which he described as "inhuman."

"We deplore Suhakam’s report, it is a blatant lie. Siva Subramaniam must step down immediately," he added.

n siva subramaniamOn Wednesday, Subramaniam, after visiting the Kamunting detention centre, said that Uthayakumar was given proper medical treatment by the authorities.

He, however, did not meet Uthayakmar or any of the other four Hindraf detainees during his visit.

Threat to BN, not nation

In their memorandum to the King, Hindraf lawyers appealed to his highness to facilitate the release of the five.

hindraf isa detainees 141207 updatedThis action followed a recent media report stating that the King had consented to the government’s recommendation for the Hindraf leaders to be detained for two years [see letter below]. This decision was reportedly conveyed in letters sent by His Majesty to the five.

Manogaran stressed that the use of ISA to detain the Hindraf leaders was utterly unjust and appealed to the King to raise the matter in his parliamentary address next Monday.

"ISA is evil and the government that carries it is an evil government. We urge the King to look into the matter and justly react by releasing all of them," added Surendran.

They argued that Hindraf is not a threat to national security but to the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional.

The other Hindraf leaders under detention are M Manoharan, V Ganabatirau, R Kenghadharan and T Vasantha Kumar.

All five were detained on Dec 13 shortly after they had organised a mammoth street rally which drew some 30,000 people.

Watch 2-min video in Malaysiakini.tv

home affair minister office hindraf letter 250408


Friday, April 25, 2008

Gov't repeals ban on Makkal Osai

Gov't repeals ban on Makkal Osai
Lee Weng Keat | Apr 24, 08 3:01pm
The government has reversed its decision a week after banning Makkal Osai by renewing the Tamil daily's publishing permit today.

The newspaper, promising that it would be careful in the future, will hit the stands on Saturday.

makkal ossai renewed publication permit 240408 06The daily’s general manager M Periasamy today told reporters that he renewed the permit at about 3.30pm after receiving a letter from the ministry in the morning stating that his appeal has been approved.

“We will be more careful. We won’t run away from our responsibility (of maintaining racial harmony),” he said.

According to Periasamy, no conditions have been imposed for the renewal of the permit.

He thanked the government and the ministry in allowing the daily to continue. He also thanked the daily’s faithful readers for their continued support.

Periasamy revealed that he had met with Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar two days ago to submit the appeal letter and to explain the daily’s stand. He added that the minister did not explain why the permit was not renewed.

“He just said generally that all newspapers should maintain racial harmony,” said Periasamy.

On April 16, the daily received a letter from the Home Ministry stating that its permit would not be renewed. No reasons were given for the ban.

Syed Hamid was later quoted in the media as saying that Makkal Osai had breached media guidelines but he did not elaborate.

makkal osai terminateThe daily, which is closely linked to former MIC deputy president S Subramaniam, subsequently filed an appeal.

Industry sources claimed that the ministry's decision was related to Makkal Osai's extensive coverage of opposition-related news and the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).

Makkal Osai is a widely read Tamil daily, ranking next only to Malaysia Nanban in terms of popularity. Nanban is still the best selling Tamil daily in the country. The MIC-linked Tamil Nesan is the third Tamil daily on circulation.

Syed Hamid: Why we change our mind

Syed Hamid said the decision to allow the newspaper to continue publishing was based on looking after the interests of the paper's employees.

"They are supporting so many people and... they assure that they will abide by the guidelines and they will contribute to our nation building efforts," Syed Hamid said.

"I think their request is reasonable and I renewed it (the permit) yesterday," he told reporters.

Syed Hamid had earlier said the daily violated guidelines stipulating that newspapers should not raise sensitive issues that could threaten racial harmony and the country's stability.

The minister said his ministry had not been pressured to act.

"There was none ... no political pressure. No one has come to see us except the newspaper. We never act under pressure. What we act on is in the interest of the country," he said.

Periasamy said that the daily suffered at least RM400,000 loss in revenue as a result of their shutdown.

“But now that we are back, we will continue to be the paper that cares. We will continue to report on Indian issues and continue to care about racial harmony,” he said.

makkal ossai renewed publication permit 240408 05The daily’s editor-in-chief M Rajen also thanked the other newspapers for their support and assistance in the past one week.

“Although this is a short period (one week), but for us it was a big struggle,” he said.

Periasamy also said he agreed with a proposal made by Syed Hamid last year that newspapers need to apply for the permit only once, without the need for renewals as being practised now.

He said that it was a worrying time for all newspapers while waiting for their permits to be annually renewed, coupled with the "love letters" which they received from the ministry from time to time on coverage deemed to be controversial.

“Moreover, if you want to renew every newspaper, you only increase the workload of the ministry,” he said.

Time to release Hindraf 5

Makkal Osai, or 'The People’s Voice', has a circulation of 52,000 and was launched in 2005. It has a staff of about 100 people.

This is not the first time that the newspaper ran into trouble. On Aug 24 last year, the government lapped a one-month suspension after the Tamil daily published an image of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette and a beer can four days ago.

It was published as a weekly newspaper for 15 years before it became a daily in December 2005. It is an offshoot of Tamil Osai which ceased operations in 1990 following a management dispute.

In recent month, the daily however saw a decline in its circulation after Subramaniam buried the hatchet with his former nemesis MIC president S Samy Vellu who owns the rival Tamil Nesan daily.

In an immediate reaction, opposition leader Lim Kit Siang welcome the lifting of the ban on Makkal Osai and urged the government to release the five Hindraf leaders held under the Internal Security Act.

"Syed Hamid should learn the lesson of the Makkal Osai faux pax and not repeat the same mistake of complying obediently and blindly the dictates of the 'Little Napoleons' in the bureaucracy and to bring to bear his higher duties and responsibilities as the minister ultimately responsible for all decisions made by his ministry."

He said that the minister cannot again pass the responsibility of the continued detention of the Hindraf 5 to the civil servants.

It was reported that the King has ordered for the five to complete their two-year detention after receiving the recommendation of the prime minister's Advisory Board

Thursday, April 24, 2008

MADPET:- Conduct proper inquiry into complaints concerning P. Uthayakumar

MEDIA STATEMENT – 24/4/2008


SUHAKAM’S CONDUCT UNBECOMING OF A HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

- Conduct proper inquiry into complaints concerning P. Uthayakumar

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is disappointed by the fact that the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) made and pronounced conclusions about complaints about detention conditions and health care of an Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee in Kamunting Detention Centre without even meeting with the said P. Uthayakumar. This was reported by Malaysiakini(23/4/2008) in a report entitled “Suhakam: Uthaya wasn't denied treatment” and also by Bernama(23/4/2008) in a report entitled “Uthayakumar's claim of improper medical care untrue: Suhakam”

The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) should never come to any conclusions or findings without at least meeting and talking to both sides.

In this case, it was reported that the SUHAKAM team led by Human Rights Commissioner Datuk Siva Subramaniam, had meetings with “…senior officials, the doctor and police personnel at the camp, as well as medical personnel in Taiping hospital…”

It was also reported in Malaysiakini that “Uthayakumar was neither present during the four-hour probe, nor interviewed by the team…”

When Datuk Siva Subramaniam was apparently “…asked why Uthayakumar’s side of the story was not heard….He pointed out that media reports were also sufficient to highlight Uthayakumar’s plight….”(Malaysiakini).

The manner in which this “inquiry” was done and the conclusions reached are very wrong, and is a deprivation of P.Uthayakumar and his family’s fundamental right to be heard and participate in any inquiry and/or investigation.

P. Uthayakumar is already a victim of a draconian law that allows for detention without trial - where there is no right to defend oneself; no right to a fair and open trial; and no right to even go for judicial review of the alleged reasons for detaining him.

As such, the manner in which Siva Subramanian and SUHAKAM conducted themselves in this case makes it even more deplorable and is certainly unacceptable behaviour for a National Human Rights Commission.

MADPET seriously hopes that the making of such speedy “conclusions” in this case by Commissioner Siva Subramanian, was not affected by the fact that his current term expires in July 2008, and a belief that a ‘pro-government’ positioning now may assist chances of a re-appointment for another 2-year term.

Human Right Commissioners and the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) must at all times be independent, and be seen to be independent, fearless and should only be driven by human rights and justice considerations. If a Human Rights Commissioner cannot do this by reason of fear or some other reason, then the proper and ethical thing to do is to resign.

MADPET urges SUHAKAM to immediately retract its conclusions about the complaints by P. Uthayakumar, his family and/or his friends, as reported in the media, and conduct a proper inquiry into these complaints in the proper manner – which would necessarily include that fundamental right to be heard and to participate accorded to the alleged victim and the complainants.

MADPET also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of P. Utayakumar, M. Manoharan and all those currently detained under the Internal Security Act(ISA) and other laws that allow for detention without trial.

MADPET also reiterates its call that the ISA and all laws that allow for detention without trial be repealed.

Charles Hector

for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)

24th April 2008

[For further information, contact Charles Hector (019-2371300/019-2371100)]

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Making conclusions after hearing ONE side is itself a serious HUMAN RIGHTS violation.

Shocking and dissapointing conduct by Human Rights Commissioner N Siva Subramaniam when he can make conclusions and issue pronouncement without even hearing P Uthayakumar.

Have you forgotten the very important fundamental human right of the "right to be heard".

The way SUHAKAM conducted itself, as reported in the Media, is really BIASED. (And one wonders whether this was because good old N Siva Subramaniam's whose term apparently ends in July 2008 is hoping for a re-appointment for a further term and of course the government would likely re-appoint 'pro-government' persons back into SUHAKAM)

He heard one side of the story and he made his conclusions, i.e. that the claims of denial of proper medical care made by the ISA detainee is UNTRUE.

Did he even meet with the complainant - or the person who is the subject of the complaint >>> clearly this was not done.

I say N Siva Subramaniam has been found to be wanting - and should be removed as a Human Rights Commissioner.

His actions have placed a permanent stain on the credibility of SUHAKAM as the National Human Rights Commission.





Suhakam: Uthaya wasn't denied treatment
Beh Lih Yi | Apr 23, 08 3:14pm
Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leader P Uthayakumar has not been denied proper medical treatment, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has found following a probe.

Commissioner N Siva Subramaniam said the claims were found to be untrue during Suhakam’s visit yesterday to the Kamunting detention camp in Taiping, Perak.

There have been rising concerns over the health of Uthayakumar, a diabetic for the past 12 years. He is currently being held under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in Kamunting.

suhakam uthayakumar health pc 230408 statement“His situation is under control and he is happy with the medicines given to him,” Siva Subramaniam told a press conference at the Suhakam headquarters in Kuala Lumpur today. Alos present was commission secretary Ahmad Yusuf Ngah.

Siva Subramaniam said he led a team which met with senior officials, the doctor and police personnel at the camp, as well as medical personnel in Taiping hospital. Uthayakumar was neither present during the four-hour probe, nor interviewed by the team.

The commissioner said his team discovered that certain claims were false - that Uthayakumar had been treated merely by a health assistant and that he had been discharged too soon from the hospital.

uthayakumar new look taiping hospital 090408It was also not true that he had been denied medicine for diabetes over the past month despite repeated requests to the director of the Kamunting camp.

“His family wanted to provide medicine to Uthayakumar but under the rules and regulations (of the camp), the medicine needs to come from the health ministry,” he noted.

Siva Subramaniam said the substance of medicine was found to be the same from both sources.

“He told the doctor that he is satisfied with what is being given to him,” said the commissioner, who nonetheless stressed that it was the right of any detainee to receive proper medical treatment.

Siva Subramaniam was asked why Uthayakumar’s side of the story was not heard.

“We came to a conclusion that as far as diseases and confidentiality of medical treatment (are concerned), it should be maintained between doctor and patient; a third party shouldn’t know what’s happening,” he contended.

He pointed out that media reports were also sufficient to highlight Uthayakumar’s plight.

To another question, he said the detainee’s family had not approached Suhakam for help, but understands that over 30 police reports had been lodged over the claim that Uthayakumar was being deprived of due medical attention.

Visit to Lenggeng tomorrow


uthayakumar arrest 231107Uthayakumar is among five Hindraf leaders who were detained under the ISA on Dec 13 last year after organising a mammoth rally in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 25. This saw some 30,000 Indian Malaysians protesting against perceived marginalisation and discrimination.

He was admitted to the Taiping hospital on April 7 after his sugar level rose to more than three times the normal level. He was discharged on April 10 and taken back to the detention centre, but his family insisted that he was still unwell.

There have been calls from rights groups and politicians, including the MIC, to provide the lawyer-activist proper medical attention.

There are currently 70 detainees in Kamunting under the ISA, a law which the government-backed human rights commission has consistently opposed.

lenggeng detention camp myanmar burmese detainees incarcerated 220408Siva Subramaniam also said he will lead a Suhakam team to the Lenggeng detention centre in Negri Sembilan tomorrow, after a riot on Monday.

During the incident, about 60 Burmese detainees reportedly tried to pull down the perimeter fence and afterwards torched an administration building.

More than 100 members of the people’s volunteer corps, riot police, civil defence department and fire and rescue service personnel had to be called in to contain the riot.



Uthayakumar's claim of improper medical care untrue: Suhakam



Wednesday, 23 April 2008 03:01pm

©Bernama
by Azura Abas

KUALA LUMPUR, Wed: Allegations that Hindu Rights Action Force legal adviser P. Uthayakumar has been denied proper medical care are untrue, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia said today.

Commissioner Datuk Siva Subramaniam said Suhakam had a two-hour meeting with representatives from various quarters, including Taiping Hospital, the police and the Kamunting detention centre on Tuesday.

“The allegation that Uthayakumar was discharged from hospital while still being critically ill is untrue. The doctor who treated Uthayakumar has 20 years’ experience in treating those with diabetes. Dr Letchuman had allowed him to leave the hospital based on a professional opinion that the detainee’s health is fine,” he said.

Siva dismissed allegations that the Hindraf legal adviser was not given medicine for his illnesses. For families of the detainees to provide their own medicine, they will have to get the approval from the hospital and prison authorities.

“Approval will only be given if the hospital does not have the needed medication,” he said.

On a claim that Uthayakumar’s food had salt and sugar in it, Siva said the relevant authority assured Suhakam that the detainee only received salt- and sugar-free food and drinks.

“Now, he eats bread and has requested for capati, too. If Uthayakumar wants salt, he will be supplied with it upon request,” he said.

Siva also denied a claim that Uthayakumar was only taken care by a medical assistant. “A visiting doctor goes to the detention centre three times a week.”

In fact, he said, Uthayakumar would undergo medical checks soon.

“We have also checked the supply of medicine and met the doctors. We concluded that the detention centre has enough supply of medicine for various illnesses, including for diabetes.

Recently, Uthayakumar’s mother had appealed for her son to be admitted to the National Heart Institute (IJN) or a private hospital of her choice. K. Kalaivaniy, 64, claimed that Uthayakumar’s health was deteriorating at the Kamunting detention centre.

On the recent Lenggeng riot, Siva believed it was important to have the cooperation of embassies to solve immigrants’ issues. Some 60 detainees, mostly Myanmar refugees, at the Lenggeng Immigration depot rioted on Monday, setting an administrative building ablaze and destroying office equipment.

Siva feared that the poor conditions at immigration detention centres were like a ticking time bomb. “The centres are overcrowded and the detainees are kept there far too long.”

Siva said the centres could also tap into the resources of non-governmental organisations to help the refugees.

STOP ARREST OF Press Statement of Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia: Stop arrest of BURMESE refugees

Press Statement of Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia: Stop arrest of Myanmar refugees


Wednesday, 23 April 2008 05:16pm

STOP ARREST OF BURMESE REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS. RELEASE REFUGEES IN DETENTION AS SIGN OF COMPASSION AND SOLIDARITY WITH THE PEOPLE OF BURMA.

ROUNDED UP: Malaysian police keeping a close eye on detainees from Myanmar at the holding camp in Lenggeng, Negeri Sembilan. Some 60 illegals rioted and set fire to a building on Monday.
ROUNDED UP: Malaysian police keeping a close eye on detainees from Myanmar at the holding camp in Lenggeng, Negeri Sembilan. Some 60 illegals rioted and set fire to a building on Monday.

The recent riot by the Burmese political refugees in Lenggeng Detention Camp shows the frustration of refugees as there are no solution to refugees issues. The Malaysian government has continued the Crackdown against refugees and on the other hand there is no development to their application to resettle in the third countries.

Since the situation in Burma has become worse, we really hope that the Malaysian government stop the arrest of refugees. The continuous arrest of refugees cause crowdedness in the detention camps throughout the country and it would not solve the root cause.

There are refugees in the detention camp awaiting the intervention by UNHCR for the past 3 to 4 years. They do not want to be deported as they will be arrested and detained again and again. Many of these refugees suffer from depression as they have stayed for a lengthy time at the detention camps and the uncertainty of their future.

While we appeal to the Malaysian government to stop the arrest on refugees, we also hope UNHCR to actively dialogue with resettlement countries to accept more refugees regardless of ethnic, race, religion & etc.

Myanmar Ethnic Rohingyas Human Rights Organization Malaysia, calls on the Prime Minister, Y.A.B Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi:-

1) To stop the arrest of refugees and asylum seekers in the country

2) To release all refugees who are currently detained in the various detention camps.

3) To give them temporary document to continue their stay in Malaysia while their resettlement being processed.

4) To stop deportation to Thailand Border as it will only put their lives in great danger.

5) To add pressure on Junta to restore Democracy in Burma - (ASEAN)

Yours sincerely,
Mr. Zafar Ahmad Haji Abdul Ghani
President of Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM)
Penthouse, Wisma MLS
No. 31 Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman
50100 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
Tel: 603. 26913691 / 26973671
Fax: 603. 26913681
H/P: 6016- 6827287,
Web: http://merhrom.wordpress.com
Email: rights4rohingya@yahoo.co.uk

A foolish suggestion to Malaysians by a former de-facto law Ministert

A foolish suggestion by one former de-facto law Minister. What does he want? A Royal Commission?

UMNO is a political party - and if members of the UMNO party want to form a Commission to investigate why they did so badly this last elections -- then it is up to them members. Why are you going out there and making a statement to the whole world when it is merely a party matter.

Rais, and many others are behaving as though the losses of UMNO-led Barisan Nasional government is a matter of national concern - a matter of concern for all the RAKYAT...it is foolish.

It is just a political party -- and a coalition of political party who have stayed way too long in power so much so that that even 'wise' former de-facto law Minister is getting confused and is having difficulty seeing the difference between the party and the government...

There is no NATIONAL TRAGEDY when Malaysians voted for some other political party not UMNO and/or its gang of political parties... in fact some say that it is HAPPY MOMENT THAT NEED TO BE CELEBRATED....



Rais: Form commission to probe Umno's losses
Apr 23, 08 3:32pm (malaysiakini)

Since this is the season of commissions, Umno supreme council member Dr Rais Yatim is calling for one to be formed on the party.

He said Umno, which is considered the backbone of the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional, is in dire need of a commission to look into the heavy losses it sustained in the March 8 polls.

suhakam religion culture conference 090906 rais yatim speakRais, who is also foreign minister, said the party should also "change" the way it operated.

"If you can create a commission for judges and now you want to create the anti-corruption commission, why can't you create a commission for Umno," he said, adding that Umno should go forward now.

"I am always here to say the quota system should go. The creation of the overlords, the barons at state levels of Umno should also be looked at again, so that we should not have to serve too many bosses when it comes to election," the veteran politician told Bernama.

Rais, 66, was referring to the quota system which stipulates that for a leader to contest the positions of president, deputy president, vice-presidents or supreme council member, he or she must obtain a certain number of nominations from Umno divisions.

"This I think may not go well with some, we have to say what we believe in. Again I am not blaming anybody, but the system must be fair," he said.

Fond of blaming others

On former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad's call for his successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step down as prime minister and Umno president and take the blame for BN's dismal election performance, Rais said this was not the time for bickering but the time to work.

"It is the time to forget and forgive. Everybody has a sanctum somewhere in his inner thinking to be enforced and to be said aloud.

"I think the time has come for all levels of leadership to accept and love Malaysia and allow the working process to take place," he said.

Rais said while he was not pointing fingers at anyone for the loss, Malaysians were "very fond of blaming people."

MADPET SAYS NO TO PROPOSAL TO WHIP ‘MAT REMPIT’

MEDIA STATEMENT – 22/4/2008

MADPET SAYS NO TO PROPOSAL TO WHIP ‘MAT REMPIT’

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is disturbed by the recent statement of Federal Traffic chief Senior Assistant Commissioner II Datuk Hamza Taib, as reported in the Star (18/4/2008), who said that “..Habitual illegal road racers and Mat Rempits will face whipping under proposed amendments to the Road Transport Act 1987.”

The report stated that “...under the proposed Section 42 (A), illegal racers can be jailed for up to five years and fined not less than RM5,000, and have their licences suspended for three years for a first offence…The penalty for second-time offenders would be a minimum of 10 years’ jail, three strokes of the rotan, not less than RM10,000 fine, and not less than a five-year suspension of the driving licence…”

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

Whipping is one such cruel, inhumane, degrading form of punishment, and there is no good reason why the punishment of whipping is still there in the statute books of caring compassionate Malaysia.

The only flawed reason why some may want to add whipping as an extra-punishment for repeat offenders of an offence under the Road Transport Act is possibly the belief that it will have a deterrent effect. This reasoning is baseless for there is no evidence whatsoever to support such a belief. It is also unlikely that Malaysian authorities will be able to supply Malaysians evidence that the introduction of the punishment of whipping has had a direct consequence in the reduction of any crime.

The Malaysian government must seriously look into root causes, which may reveal that it was the failings of the government itself that has led to such crime in Malaysia today, and if that be the case, then the taking of the easy way out by just blaming the “Mat Rempits” and the introducing whipping as an additional punishment is wrong and unacceptable.

"If you suffer your people to be ill-educated and their manners corrupted from infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded, sire, but that you first make thieves and then punish them?" -Thomas More

It should be noted that the Malaysian Bar, a body of about 13,000 lawyers, did in March 2007 pass a resolution unanimously calling for the abolition of the whipping sentence from the laws of Malaysia. The Malaysian Bar rejected and denounced ‘…the sentence of whipping as it is anachronistic and inconsistent with a compassionate society in a developed nation….’

MADPET calls for an immediate removal of the sentence of whipping from the laws of Malaysia.

MADPET calls also for an end of the execution of the sentence of whipping, which has been known to cause permanent physical and psychological damage to victims, including also impotency.

MADPET calls also for Malaysia to immediately ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984).

Charles Hector

for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)

22nd April 2008

Lenggeng riot: 'A disaster waiting to happen'

State police chief Osman Abdullah had earlier stated that ""We are still investigating the cause, but at this point in time all I can say is that they were unhappy because they heard that their application to a third country had been rejected,"

Now that reason about unhappiness because application to third country denied is found to be baseless.

SO - what did happen and WHY? We deserve to know this and a thorough investigation needs to be done maybe by SUHAKAM(Human Rights Commission).

It is also shocking that Malaysia has given over the management of detention centres to the Volunteer Corp RELA - and this detention centres were previously under the professionals - the Prisons Department.

RELA should be abolished - and that has been the call of the Malaysian Bar, ALIRAN and other groups but the government is turning a deaf ear to the call that law enforcement, including management of detention centres should be undertaken by full-time professionals. If there is a shortage of man-power - then HIRE and TRAIN -- not resort to volunteers.

Until shown otherwise, blame must rest with the body responsible - the RELA.

Lenggeng riot: 'A disaster waiting to happen'
Fauwaz Abdul Aziz | Apr 23, 08 10:44am (Malaysiakini)

It was only a matter of time before trouble broke out at the 14 immigration detention centres taken over earlier this year by voluntary corps Rela - as the Lenggeng incident in Negri Sembilan has proved.

alex ong“We anticipated it to happen sooner or later. Lenggeng is only the beginning of worse things to come,” said Migrant Care coordinator Alex Ong when contacted yesterday.

Ong was commenting on the riot on Monday in which about 60 Burmese detainees reportedly tried to pull down the perimeter fence and afterwards torched an administration building.

More than 100 Rela members, riot police, civil defence department and fire and rescue service personnel had to be called in to contain the riot.

According to state police chief Osman Salleh, the detainees had vented their anger against the authorities after their application for resettlement to a third country had been denied.

lenggeng detention camp myanmar burmese detainees incarcerated 220408Ong, however, questioned this version of the story and said the more likely reasons involve the poor living conditions and treatment that migrants receive in such detention centres.

Many human rights and migrant groups have long decried the harsh treatment, overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate food and medical facilities.

Since Jan 15 when Rela took over the running of Lenggeng from the prison department, the plight of those detained has gotten from bad to worse, Ong claimed.

“We have always opposed Rela taking over because we expected the move to be accompanied by complaints of more human rights abuses and abusive treatment,” he said.

Rela is already saddled with a poor track record in relation to treatment of migrants, given its previous role in rounding up undocumented foreigners in Malaysia and the number of complaints this attracted.

‘Detainee beaten’

Lending strength to Ong’s contention that the riot was not over the issue of resettlement, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that no refugees in Lenggeng have been told that their resettlement request had been denied.

“Our records indicate that their cases are still being actively processed by our office,” said spokesperson Yante Ismail when contacted.

There are 75 refugees and asylum-seekers known to UNHCR in Lenggeng, of whom seven are non-Burmese and 68 are mostly Chin Burmese. It is still unclear whether and how many of these were involved in the riot, said Yante.

rela 290507 women being checkedAll-Burma Democratic Force vice-chairperson Mohammad Sadek pointed out that it is not usually the Chin - who are predominantly Christian - whose applications for resettlement in Western countries are denied.

“It is the Burmese Rohingyas who have complained that their applications for resettlement have been turned down,” said Mohammad.

A social worker who had visited the centre a few weeks ago said a day-long hunger strike had been held on April 3 by a large number of refugees, to protest the severe beating of a Burmese detainee by Rela officers.

“It took a senior immigration officer to come to the detention centre to persuade them to call off their hunger strike,” said the worker, who declined to be identified.

“I think things only got worse after that, which is why the riot happened.”

Osman said 14 foreigners - six Burmese, six Indonesians, one Vietnamese and one Cambodian - have been called in for questioning over the riot.

He said they were arrested under Sections 148 (possession of dangerous weapons) and 438 (committing mischief by fire or use of explosive substance) of the Penal Code.


*****************************************
Burmese detainees torch Lenggeng detention centre
Apr 21, 08 5:41pm

At least 60 Burmese immigrants rioted in the Lenggeng detention centre in Negri Sembilan today, torching a building after failing to win asylum to a third country.

lenggeng detention camp myanmar burmese detainees incarcerated 220408The group initially gathered outside their block at the detention and tried to bring down the perimeter fence, local state police chief Osman Abdullah was quoted as saying by the daily Star newspaper website.

"The authorities tried talking to them but a short while later, they turned violent and then gained entry into the office and set it ablaze," he added.

Osman said about 200 police and security personnel were deployed to bring the situation under control.

The Lenggeng detention facility houses 820 illegal immigrants, of which 218 are from Burma, he said.

"We are still investigating the cause, but at this point in time all I can say is that they were unhappy because they heard that their application to a third country had been rejected," Osman added.

Officials at the detention centre could not be reached for comment.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Myanmar detainees riot, set fire at Malaysian camp

Myanmar detainees riot, set fire at Malaysian camp

Reuters
April 21, 2008

Detainees from Myanmar rioted at a Malaysian holding camp on Monday,
torching a building, after hearing they had been denied asylum in a third
country, the authorities said.

Some 72 Myanmarese, who were being held at a camp just outside the capital
Kuala Lumpur, forced their way into an administrative block and set it
ablaze, the Immigration Department's head of enforcement, Ishak Mohammad,
said.

"They were disappointed on hearing the UNHCR (the U.N. Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees) couldn't get a placement for them in a third
country," he told Reuters. Malaysia considers them to be illegal
immigrants.

Police said the rioters, who were unarmed, would be charged with arson. No
one was injured.

"They set fire at the ground floor causing damage to office furniture and
computers," the local Star newspaper quoted Osman Abdullah, the police
chief in the southwestern Negeri Sembilan state, as saying in its online
edition. The camp is located at Lenggeng in the state.

The camp, housing some 800 illegal immigrants including Bangladeshis and
Indonesians, would be closed temporarily, the immigration department said.

Malaysia is home to around 3 million foreign workers, 1 million of whom
are working illegally, Home Minister Syed Albar said at the weekend.

The country currently has about 39,000 refugees registered with the UNHCR,
the body said.

Of the total, about 13,000 are members of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim
minority and another 12,000 are members of other Myanmar minority ethnic
groups.

The Rohingyas came in the 1990s from Myanmar, but the government there
disputes their origin and refuses to let them return.

(Reporting by Jalil Hamid, Editing by Alex Richardson)

Time's up, but will Suhakam chief go? (Malaysiakini)

Time's up, but will Suhakam chief go?
Beh Lih Yi | Apr 22, 08 12:33pm
All eyes are on Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chairperson Abu Talib Othman, as his tenure - alongside that of 11 commissioners - expires tomorrow.

Indications so far point to the likelihood of the former attorney-general being re-appointed for a fourth term, but there is no official confirmation of this as yet.

It is learnt that some Suhakam officers were told two months ago that Abu Talib would have his contract renewed for another two years, to helm the government-backed commission.

zaid ibrahimMalaysiakini also learnt that de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim (photo) has been asked to recommend fresh faces to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, to fill the posts of those commissioners whose tenure ends tomorrow.

suhakam commissioner expiry 220408A well-placed Suhakam source said Zaid’s office contacted the commission last week to ask for details of the commissioners to be furnished on an urgent basis.

Confirming this, a spokesperson for Zaid’s office said the final decision on the line-up lies with Najib, whose portfolio includes supervision of Suhakam’s operations.

“The names have yet to be given to (Najib) based on what I understand,” the source said.

Najib’s aide Tengku Sarifuddin Tengku Ahmad, when contacted, declined comment apart from saying that an announcement will be made soon.

A check with a number of commissioners revealed that they too are in the dark as to whether their contract will be renewed.

“There might be some changes perhaps,” one commissioner said.

They said they do not know when the announcement will be made, although one commissioner said it could take place next week.

simon sipaun 02denison jayasooriaThose affected include vice-chief Simon Sipaun (left), commissioners Dr Chiam Heng Keng, Dr Mohammad Hirman Ritom Abdullah, Asiah Abu Samah, Dr Raj Abdul Karim, Dr Abdul Monir Yaacob, KC Vohrah, Dr Denison Jayasooria (right), Dr Michael Yeoh, Muhammad Uthman El-Muhammady and Zaitoon Othman.

Commissioner Choo Siew Kioh’s term will expire on April 29, followed by Tunku Nazihah Tunku Mohamed Rus (May 31), Prof Dr Khoo Kay Kim, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and N Siva Subramaniam (all on July 19) and Khalid Ibrahim (Nov 30).

This is not the first time that commissioners have waited on such announcements. In 2006, the new batch of the commissioners was only announced 10 days after their term expired.

abu talib othman from ag to suhakam 230807There is a strong concern over the possible re-appointment of Abu Talib, whose initial appointment in 2002 had been boycotted by 32 NGOs for 100 days.

This was due to his defence of the 1987 mass crackdown dubbed Operasi Lalang and actions during his tenure as AG, when he played an instrumental role in the sacking of Lord President Salleh Abas.

Human rights watchdog Suaram director Dr Kua Kia Soong stressed that only personalities with credibility and human rights credentials should be appointed.

“No, not Abu Talib. He is the person who said during my habeas corpus application that solitary confinement is like (staying) in a hotel room,” Kua said, referring to his legal challenge against his detention under the Internal Security Act during Operasi Lalang.

Frustration of officers

Some Suhakam officers also argue for a pressing need to overhaul the line-up. They would like to see eight commissioners who have held the post for three terms (six years) - in particular, Abu Talib - being dropped.

The eight are Simon, Chiam and Mohammad Hirman - all of whom were appointed at Suhakam’s inception in 1999 - and Abu Talib, Asiah, Raj, Abdul Monir and Vohrah who were appointed in 2002.

“In countries like Australia and New Zealand, the human rights commission makes it clear that a commissioner should not stay for more than five years,” said an officer.

Another high-ranking officer echoed the sentiment, saying it is a common feeling among the 70-odd officers that they want a “complete change”.

“If I had my way, I would not mind seeing all of them replaced, especially those who will soon entering their 10th year at Suhakam. Even Parliament has changed half of faces but we’re still getting old faces here,” she said.

“We really need new blood in Suhakam and I hope the decision-maker knows this is coming from us - the officers.”

kc vohrahFormer Court of Appeal judge Vohrah - who heads Suhakam’s law reform and international treaties working group - has indicated his wish not to be re-appointed, sources said.

Another personality who may be excluded is Denison, who heads the MIC-linked Yayasan Strategik Sosial. This follows the party’s request to Denison to focus on the foundation’s work after the March 8 general election, which saw severe losses for its candidates.

Two officers said they hope to see constitutional expert Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi in the new line-up.

param cumaraswamyraja aziz addruseOther names suggested by them and Kua include former United Nations special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Param Cumaraswamy (left), human rights group Hakam ex-president Ramdas Tikamdas and prominent lawyer Raja Aziz Addruse (right).

“It could be a good idea to bring back Prof Hamdan Adnan too,” said a Suhakam officer. The vocal ex-commissioner was dropped in 2006.

According to sources, some ex-politicians have lobbied to be appointed as commissioners.

Suhakam has a chequered history in defending human rights, with NGOs frequently complaining about its ineffectiveness.

Most of the commission’s recommendations over the past nine years have been ignored by the government, while repeated attempts to get the Suhakam annual report to be debated in Parliament have proved futile.

The government has previously stated that it has no intention of giving the commission any ‘teeth’, in terms of enforcement of recommendations. Suhakam only acts as an advisory body to government at present.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rela may be upgraded to an enforcement agency



Monday April 21, 2008

Rela may be upgraded to an enforcement agency

By JASON LIOH

MALACCA: The Home Ministry is mulling over whether to upgrade Rela to an enforcement agency in a move to enhance its enforcement and public order operations.

Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said a draft of the proposal was being finalised for consideration by the Government.

“The role and responsibility of Rela has increased and become even more challenging,” he told reporters after attending a get-together between its officers and leaders at the Rela Southern Zone Training Camp in Sungai Udang yesterday.

“So it is appropriate that the organisation is upgraded to an enforcement agency under the ministry.”

Syed Hamid said the move would allow for better logistical support and funding for facilities, equipment, and uniforms for its personnel.

“We need to give the 508,000 volunteers sufficient training, not only to enhance the capability of Rela but also to further assist the police and immigration. To date, Rela has caught 73,938 illegal immigrants,” he added.

Under the 9th Malaysia Plan, three more Rela training camps would be set up – in Negri Sembilan, Pahang and Perak – to complement the existing camps at Sungai Udang in Malacca, Sungai Petani in Kedah and Tuaran in Sabah.

On Makkai Osai, Syed Hamid reiterated that the decision not to renew the vernacular paper’s licence was taken after thorough consideration.

The Government did not restrict the publication of newspapers as the media had a role to play in society, he said, but cautioned news publications to not create conflict or disharmony among the people,

“Freedom comes with responsibilities. The Government allows ample freedom of speech and practices democracy with fairness and integrity,” he said.



***************

Sunday April 20, 2008

Proposal to upgrade Rela to enforcement agency

By JASON LIOH


MALACCA: The Home Ministry is proposing that Rela be upgraded to full departmental status as an enforcement agency under the ministry.

This would enhance the organisation's enforcement and public order operations, said Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, adding that a draft of the proposal was being finalised before being tabled to the Government for approval.

“The role and responsibility of Rela has increased and become even more challenging.

“As such it is appropriate that the organisation be upgraded to an enforcement agency under the ministry,” he told reporters after attending Rela's get-together between officers and leaders at the Rela Southern Zone Training Camp in Sungai Udang Sunday. He said that the move would allow for better logistical support and funding for facilities, equipment, and uniforms for its personnel.

“We need to give the 508,000 volunteers sufficient training, not only to enhance Rela’s capability but also to further assist police and the Immigration Department -- as of today, it has nabbed 73,938 illegal immigrants," he added.

Under the 9th Malaysian Plan, three more Rela training camps would be set up in Negri Sembilan, Pahang and Perak to complement the existing camps at Sungai Udang in Malacca, Sungai Petani in Kedah and Tuaran in Sabah.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

ISA detainee gets to visit sick daughter

ISA detainee gets to visit sick daughter
Azreen Madzlan | Apr 19, 08 3:24pm

Four-year old V Vishaleny refused to eat ever since she was warded for severe viral fever at the Cheras Pantai Medical Centre on Tuesday.

But when her father came to visit and fed her a slice of bread, she began to eat. But this was no ordinary hospital visit.

hospital visit 180408 familyVishaleny is the youngest daughter of K.Vasantha Kumar, Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf)
coordinator who is currently being held under the ISA in Kamunting.

Yesterday, her wish to see her father came true. After her mother appealed to Home Minister, Syed Hamid Albar to allow Vasantha Kumar to visit her was approved, Vishaleny has been waiting impatiently.

A big group of police and Special Branch officers were stationed at the hospital from noon until Vasantha Kumar arrived at 5 pm. About 50 of them were patrolling outside and inside the hospital building and another 25 went in to the pediatric ward with Vasantha Kumar.

Vasantha Kumar went in to see her daughter at 5.35 pm. However, Vishaleny was asleep and too tired to respond when her father arrived.

The detainee spent about 40 minutes with his sick daughter before being whisked away at the back exit, to avoid Hindraf supporters and the press. Reporters were not permitted into the ward.

Meanwhile, about 20 Hindraf supporters gathered at the paediatric ward in the hospital to catch a glimpse of the Hindraf leader.

Children psychologically affected

In an interview with Malaysiakini, Vasantha Kumar's wife, K Vickneswary said her two daughters, aged six and four are psychologically and physically affected by their father's detention.


"I dragged them along to Kamunting every weekend because they want to see their father. They're in school five days a week and because of the weekly trip, they did not get enough rest." she said.

Four year old V.Vishaleny, who is being warded for severe viral fever, has gotten sick since Sunday. She was warded after her school teacher called Vickneswary that she has been vomiting at school.

Vickneswary expressed her disappointment when the court postponed the hearing for the Hindraf Five ISA detainees for another month.

hindraf p uthayakumar taiping hospital 170408 03"Today is my daughter (who has gotten sick). We don't know whether others (ISA detainees’ children) will follow. They (ISA detainees) also have babies and small children. The children can't bear this anymore." she said.

Vickneswary expressed her gratitude to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar for allowing Vasantha Kumar to visit her daughter.

The five Hindraf leaders have been detained under the draconian law since December following the massive rally of Hindraf supporters in Kuala Lumpur.

Hindraf 5 remain united

Meanwhile, according to Hindraf supporter S Sivalingam, Vasantha Kumar had asked him to inform the public that the five Hindraf leaders are still together, quashing rumours that they are disunited.

Sivalingam also revealed that Vasantha Kumar had applied for permission to visit her daughter for the second time next Saturday but has not received a reply yet.

Hindraf leader Uthayakumar, according to Sivalingam, is now in better health after receiving proper medication and food for his diabetes following his hospitalisation.