Monday, August 01, 2016

Tan Sri Razali and SUHAKAM - a disappointment or merely case of 'bad' reporting?

Headlines can be misleading - and we do hope that our new SUHAKAM Chairperson will be as committed to human rights as was his predecessor, or better still even more committed. 

The fact that his appointment as Chairman comes at this time when many perceive that this Najib led-government may now be placing pro-Najib or pro-government persons in positions of power does not help Tan Sri Razali, our new SUHAKAM head. 

He and the other new National Human Rights Commissioners will now have to prove that they are indeed still totally committed to human rights and justice - and not merely pro-Najib or pro-government appointees. These SUHAKAM Commissioners will now be monitored with hope by the Malaysian people... Before Hasmy Agam, little hope was placed on SUHAKAM ...we hope better from Tan Sri Razali...

Our former Attorney General was removed just few months before his retirement, and replaced by another. The Bank Negara Chief is gone - replaced by another. The MACC chief is gone, not to be replaced by the strong number 2 in MACC - but by some other. 

The de facto Minister of Law was suddenly replaced by another, who has been rather vocal in defence of Najib, 1MDB and the government...

Malaysian Bar is also now being threaten with amendments to the Legal Profession Act - amendments that will see the insertion of government representatives into the Bar Council, changes in the electoral process, quorums for the General Meetings, etc - amendments which have not been proposed or asked for the members of the Malaysian Bar. See earlier post:-'Attack' on the Malaysian Bar and Freedom of Asociation? What the Malaysian government proposes to do in October 2016?

SUHAKAM, Malaysia's National Human Rights Institution, was seen as being strong and committed to human rights - and acted fearlessly even being critical of the current government. In response, the government slashed the budget in almost half - delayed in the appointment of new HR Commissioners after the term of office of the last batch ended, and then recently appointed Tan Sri Razali and a new batch of Commissioners...

I was disturbed, about the news report that suggested that Razali may be more interested in 'cleanliness' than the freedom of assembly.

Why 'peaceful assembly''?
- To show that what is being demanded for and/or concerns are not merely coming from just a few individuals and/or organizations, but RATHER is something that many many other ordinary Malaysians agree to...
- To also share with others these views and to lobby for even greater support...

What are the other options to human rights defenders and civil society persons and groups ...

Well, Malaysian media, TV, radio or print media, gives 'very little' coverage... that too for even statements signed by over 50 groups. Alternative media also sometimes do not anymore give sufficient space - but the problem is that alternative media's reach is not that great...

Complains/Letters to the Prime Minister, Ministers or relevant government departments - well, most times one will not even get any response anymore...I have send letters to the Prime Minister, Ministers and ...even the Majlis Perbandaran Temerloh - save for the Minister of Health, sadly I have not received a response. The PM's Department, did in the past, send at least a letter stating that the letter has been received, and have been forwarded to this or that Ministry for appropriate action...and then silence. I was sending many of these letters/statements, asking specifically for a response, on behalf of many persons and organisations/groups - sometimes about 50 - 120 groups. Well, if that is the 'proper channel', it certainly is not working... 

Well, sometimes we really want to communicate with our fellow Malaysians ...and, today, the most effective way of doing this maybe through a peaceful assembly -- and a peaceful assembly also gives people the able to respond ...and be counted...When a peaceful assembly is organised, and 20,000 persons come out, irrespective of all the risks and threats, it says a lot - it is an indicator of how important are the issue and concerns raised... it will be something the government or the entity the protest is about needs to take seriously and respond accordingly...

SUHAKAM's new chief suggests using more 'sophisticated' means - it would be good if he elaborates.

' ...some chaos when protesters and police clashed as tear gas and water cannons were used to disperse crowds...' - well, that happened because the government and the police disrespected the right to freedom of assembly. If the police had been calmed, and respected the rights of the people - they would not have unnecessarily tried to 'disperse' those who were exercising their rights of peaceful assembly with tear gas and water cannons. In Malaysia, those who come for peaceful assemblies are rather disciplined - they exercise their rights not on working days - usually only on weekends and public holidays, and when they are done, they leave peacefully...and even take steps to clean up any rubbish after they do. [Really, they should not be even doing the 'cleaning up' for we have in place persons and companies who already are tasked by government or local governments to do that...]

So was it just a case of poor reporting ...or was it an indication that we may lost SUHAKAM as a strong institution to promote and protect Human Rights in Malaysia ...??



Sunday, 31 July 2016

Don’t take to the streets, new Suhakam chief tells Bersih

KUALA LUMPUR: Bersih 2.0 should be more “sophisticated” in fighting for human rights, says the new Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail.

He said the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections did not want to be part of the opposition parties, which were embroiled in infighting and trying to get rid of the Government, and was only seeking accountability.

“No one can prevent them from asking for accountability. But if you want to make a point, why do you go to the street? You damage a lot of property and all that. We are not that desperate in Malaysia like in Tunisia or Tahrir Square (Egypt during the Arab Spring uprising),” he said in an interview.

Razali, a former diplomat, said he is a Democrat but “not a take-over-the-town-or-the-Padang Democrat”.

“They sat there for three days and didn’t wash. Why?” he said in reference to last year’s Bersih 4 rally here that went on from Aug 29 and ended when the clock struck 12 to usher in Merdeka Day.

The rally was organised by Bersih 2.0 to call for free and fair elections, transparency and good governance, the right to dissent and saving the economy, among other things.

While last year’s Bersih 4 rally ended peacefully, rallies in previous years before the Public Assembly Act was passed had seen some chaos when protesters and police clashed as tear gas and water cannons were used to disperse crowds.

Recently, there was talk of a Bersih 5 and plans are still under discussion.

On the right to hold a rally at a symbolic place like Padang Merdeka or Masjid Jamek rather than in a stadium as often suggested by the authorities, Razali said: “Promise us that they (Bersih) will clean the place properly and give it back in pristine condition.”

He said the authorities had to weigh all the parties’ interests.

Under the Human Rights Commission Act, Suhakam has the mandate to monitor rallies.

On a different matter, Razali said Malaysia had signed only three out of nine international treaties and hoped it would sign another two or three, like the UN Treaty Barring Torture and the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

“We should look at the Treaty Barring Torture. We don’t have a bloodthirsty regime and the police have done a good job, even though sometimes they are harsh and hard. We are all Malaysians. There is no propensity to torture people that way.”

As for the convention protecting persons from “enforced disappearance”, he said this was the story of Latin America in the past where they used to take dissidents on a plane, open the door and kick them out.

“Those are completely out of date now and it is not in the human spirit to do these things anymore,” he said. - Star, 31/7/2016




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