The Malaysian Bar calls on the Sarawak state government to immediately rescind the ban from entering the state currently imposed upon a Suhakam commissioner, Jannie Lasimbang.
The fact that a Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) is denied entry into Sarawak is, in principle, quite wrong. There should not be any ‘no go’ areas for Suhakam. The Federal Government, in exercising its rights under the Federal Constitution, has made a federal law to establish Suhakam and to define its terms of reference and scope of powers.
The entry ban is a negative development and one that Malaysia can ill afford. It is happening at a time when Suhakam is once again coming under the scrutiny of the Sub-Committee on Accreditation of the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions. Suhakam’s continuing ‘A’ status is already in jeopardy, and the restrictions faced by Jannie Lasimbang may well kick Suhakam out of the ‘A’ status league.
Malaysia is being closely observed by the international community for the manner in which the government is handling the issue of indigenous peoples’ rights and land reform. Great focus has already been concentrated on Sarawak, what with the issue of the Penans, the illegal logging of native customary land, and other encroachment on the rights of the Orang Asal there.
One of the four persons who constitute the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council Jannie Lasimbang’s proven expertise in the area of indigenous people’s rights and land reform would have lent weight and credibility to the comprehensive national inquiry that Suhakam was planning to undertake. The continued intransigence of the Sarawak state government can only have a detrimental effect on the issue of Orang Asli/Orang Asal rights and on the orderly and positive development of human rights in our country.
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Lim Chee Wee is Vice-President of the Malaysian Bar
4 November 2010