Suaram’s Human Rights award for 2007 was jointly presented to the Coalition Against Health Care Privatisation and the Kampung
Sungai Terentang of Rawang. On the left is Aliran executive member Dr Subramaniam Pillay, the chairperson of the Coalition’s steering committee, receiving the award, along with the other winners of the award. Aliran member Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj (not in pic) is secretary of the steering committee.
This is what Suaram had to say:
The joint winners received an award prize of RM1,500 and a trophy
which is specially designed by renowned artist Wong Hoy Cheong. Wong
has exhibited widely internationally including solo
exhibitions/projects. He was a founding member when Suaram was formed
in 1989. The concept behind the trophy, made of glass, is that it is
“transparent”, “fragile” and “heavy” – the very same
adjectives for the qualities of glass can be used to describe human
rights. The sphere in the centre represents perfection or a
reflection of the globe, and the fact that the sphere changes its
shape visually as the trophy is rotated suggests the transitory
nature of perfection, while the vertical glass bars represent prison
The winners were chosen based on their efforts in empowering its
people, the significance of their struggle, and their persistence in
their endeavours in defending their rights.
The Coalition Against Healthcare Privatisation was judged to be
one of the joint winners based on its efforts and persistence in
opposing further privatisation of the healthcare system in Malaysia.
It has brought together NGOs, trade unions and political parties from
across the board in its efforts to defend the right to healthcare for
all. Thus far, the coalition has been able to stop the privatisation
of government dispensaries and has halted the nationwide
implementation of the “full paying scheme”, which if implemented,
would deny equitable access to adequate healthcare, especially for
the poor. At the heart of its struggle lie the rights of the poor and
the downtrodden to adequate healthcare and the right to life for all.
The other winner, Kampung Sungai Terentang of Rawang, has proven
to have empowered its people, as could clearly be seen in the
continuous efforts of the villagers to stop the installation of
higher capacity high-tension transmission lines across the village.
The installation of the cables could cause long-term health hazards
to the villagers. The villagers have been persistent throughout the
two years of its struggle, since their plight began in 2005, with
efforts including numerous protests braving arrests by authorities;
memoranda, letters and counter-proposals to the Parliament and
several ministries, including to the Prime Minister. They have now
brought their case to court. The plight of Kampung Sungai Terentang
of Rawang is essentially a struggle to ensure the right to health,
which would be compromised if the proposed installation of
transmission lines is to proceed.
Both the winners’ struggles involve the right to health, a basic
and fundamental right. It is on this basis – the closely-related
struggles of the two – that the judges found it fitting that this
year’s award be given jointly to the Coalition Against Healthcare
Privatisation and Kampung Sungai Terentang of Rawang. The judges felt
that this would provide a complete picture of the fundamental issue
of right to health at both the macro and micro levels.
The panel of judges comprised of Dr Colin Nicholas, Dr Irene
Fernandez, Ramdas Tikamdas, Amer Hamzah, Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Nasir
Hashim, Irene Xavier and Maria Chin Abdullah.