Home Civil Society Voices 2016 Civil Society Voices Human Rights Day in troubled times

Human Rights Day in troubled times

Will they be able to share in the prosperity? - Photograph: Bernama pic/Malay Mail

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Suaram reiterates its dedication to the human rights cause of Malaysia and calls on all Malaysians to stand together in our fight for human rights and democracy.

Human Rights Day that falls on 10 December 2016 is supposed to be a day of celebration where people from around the world celebrate human rights. While the spirit of solidarity and hope remains strong within and without Malaysia, the situation pertaining to human rights in Malaysia has brought the morale of all Malaysians to a new low.

Detention without trial

The detention of Maria Chin Abdullah, Siti Noor Aishah, Azmi Nur Jalani, R Sri Sanjeevan and many others made it clear that the spectre of Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) has not left Malaysia.

While the ISA has been repealed for years, the manner with which detention without trial has been adopted as a ‘must have’ tool of the police and the government has not changed. Draconian laws that were supposedly meant for counter-terrorism efforts have been and will continue to be abused by those in power for their benefit.

The deputy prime minister himself has unabashedly informed the Malaysian people that 37 individuals from the Immigration Department of Malaysia were detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012. Of the 37 detained, only four had a chance to stand trial in court while 33 of them were subsequently rearrested and detained under the Prevention of Crime Act 1959. Dozens remain in custody till this day.

Such practice does not protect Malaysian from further criminal acts and violence. Such practices only serve to hide the hidden hands that have had a role in these injustices and penalise the innocents.

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Torture in detention

The deputy minister of home affairs and the inspector general of police continue with the perverse defence that the treatment received by Maria Chin Abdullah was no different from the treatment received by any other detainees as the police only acted in line with their standard operating procedure.

Perhaps the good minister and the well learned police chief wilfully chose to forget that compliance does not absolve the government of the crime of committing torture.

The claims that the treatment experienced by Maria Chin Abdullah fully complied with standard operating procedure only serves as evidence that torture is not an exception to the norm. The consistent statement and claims put forward by both the minister and the inspector general of police only proves and substantiate the past allegations that torture is systematically used against those detained under Sosma and Poca.

Persecution of student activists

The disciplinary proceeding against student activists Anis Syafiqah, Luqman Nul Haqim, Luqman Hakim and Suhail Wan Azahar was heard on the eve of Human Rights Day. Their defence was swept aside and they were all found ‘guilty’ of jeopardising University Malaya’s reputation, for organising a rally and for causing public unrest and damage to public property.

The unfounded and malicious charges against the University of Malaya 4 is only exacerbated by the unprofessional manner in which the disciplinary board heard the disciplinary proceeding. The notion of fair trial and natural justice was nowhere to be found with the allegations put forward against the students being altered and changed at a whim.

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The embarrassing display by University of Malaya only renders itself guilty of jeopardising the reputation of the university and the position of the University as a key player of human rights violations against student and youth.

Indigenous people’s rights

Despite a long year of campaign and small victories along the way, the violation of indigenous people’s rights continues with absolute impunity. The communities’ fight for survival and human rights was not met with understanding and acceptance but challenged with violence and threats by the federal and state governments.

The government’s insistence on allowing the logging operation to continue with no plans for remedy would only set the indigenous community on the path to extinction. With such a callous response, it is inevitable that our indigenous friends would gradually lose their homes, their livelihood and eventually their heritage and identity.

Such a loss would only be made worse with Malaysia losing its last few vestiges of natural heritage with the culling of the forest.

Freedom of expression and assembly

Reflecting on the long year of repression, the first right that was silenced in this campaign of repression was our right to express ourselves and assemble peacefully. The persecution of vocal critics and the arrest and detention of individuals expressing their concern for human rights and democracy threatened to destroy the small democratic space we have left.

Imposing fines seems no longer satisfactory. Only prison sentences seem to be enough to quell the government’ss need for retribution against those who perceived as enemies of the state.

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Unfortunately, even the prosecution and punishment of critics in public space is no longer enough. The ire of the government now turns to everyday Malaysians who voice their discontent and worries online. What freedom do Malaysians have when a Facebook comment can now put us in shackles?

The fight continues

In these troubled times, Malaysians need to remember that the night is the darkest just before dawn. The fight for human rights and a better Malaysia cannot be stopped and will only continue to grow. All Malaysians can do and all we can do is to stand together in solidarity with our friends in need and continue to march on against repression.

Suaram reiterates our dedication to the human rights cause of Malaysia and calls on all Malaysians to stand together in our fight for human rights and democracy. Suaram also calls upon the Malaysian government to re-examine its callous stance on human rights and adopt policies that genuinely care for Malaysians’ welfare. Failure to do so would only doom us all – for all of us have no other home but Malaysia.

Salam Perjuangan!

Sevan Doraisamy is executive director of Suaram.

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