Prema Devaraj urges Malaysians to carry on the fight for change despite the horrors of human trafficking, custodial deaths and repressive laws.
The last two weeks have seen an explosion of news in the media regarding the plight of the Rohingyas and the discovery of human trafficking camps and human remains on the Malaysian side of the border.
Aliran as part of the Penang Anti Human Trafficking Campaign took part in a Solidarity Vigil for the boat people held on 22 May at Esplanade, Penang and endorsed a Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia petition calling on the Malaysian government to allow the boat people to land in Malaysia.
Aliran is horrified at the existence of these camps, where people have been detained and killed. We urge the government to find these traffickers and act immediately to put a stop to human trafficking in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, our campaign against custodial deaths continued in Penang with a Training for Watching Brief Lawyers on Handling Inquests led by trainers M Visvanathan and N Yohendra. The training was jointly organised by Aliran, Suaram and the Penang Legal Aid Centre and funded by the Penang state government.
According to the Criminal Procedure Code (S334), if a person dies while in the custody of the police or in a mental hospital or in prison, an inquest must be held. An inquest is not a prosecutorial process but an inquisitorial one. As such, all attempts must be taken to shed light on how a death in custody took place or to establish if anyone was at all responsible.
Days after the training, another report of a custodial death surfaced: 20-year-old Shashikumar Selvam was found hanging in his prison cell in Kluang. The number of inquests which have to be conducted in the country is slowly piling up, and the need for watching brief lawyers will soon increase.
With all the arrests under the Sedition Act, Aliran launched its online Crackdown Watch. Syerleena Rashid pondered about the need for the blatant display of regressive legislature in amendments to the Sedition Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), both of which were hurriedly pushed through at the last parliamentary sitting.
Aliran, Bersih North and Suaram jointly organised a forum on ‘Pota and Sedition Act Amendments: Where are we heading?’ with Aliran president Dr Francis Loh and Bar Council National Young Lawyers committee co-chairperson Syahredzan Johan as panellists.
Syahredzan gave a clear explanation of the implications of Pota and the amendments to the Sedition Act, which will restrict freedom of expression and severely curtail human rights.
Dr Francis Loh spoke about the new economics and new politics in the country, but lamented about the Umno-BN led government‘s old approach and its desperate attempts to remain in power via the 4Rs i.e. race, religion, royalty and repressive laws.
Over in East Malaysia, the euphoria over the Kuching High Court’s nullification of the Election Commission’s proposed redelineation of Sarawak’s electoral boundaries turned to dismay with the Attorney General’s Chambers filing an appeal against the Kuching High Court’s recent ruling.
An analyst has warned that the BN may retain its two-thirds majority in the Sarawak State Assembly in the next state elections. We will continue our watch on how things develop in Sarawak.
Though we believe change is possible, attaining that change for this country is something which will probably be turbulent and take a while. Brace yourselves.
Keep calm and carry on the fight for change.
Co-editor, Aliran e-newsletter,
6 June 2015