Friday, June 01, 2012
SUHAKAM independence questioned
Its already almost six months of wait for an appointment with SUHAKAM Chairman, Tan Sri Hasmy Agam. We came to know of this distinguish diplomat of ours who used to serve at the United Nations from other NGO work.
We may have to tolerate and expect the wait to be long with him visits to the interiors of Sabah and Sarawak to understand and explore the NCR land issues there.
And we've come to expect private secretaries of big people in Government can be rather short in the courtesy department to even bother to give up-date of our appointment request and are not guilty making us wait forever.
But several news relating to SUHAKAM comes out rather odd.
It made us ask whether our Human Rights Commission is truly independent, impartial and objective body on human rights matters or has it been "penetrated"?
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Malay: Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Malaysia) better known locally as SUHAKAM is the national human rights institution (NHRI) of Malaysia. Like MACC, and other Commission status body, it is synonymous with independence.
SUHAKAM was established by the Malaysian Parliament under the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999, Act 597 arising from protest from political parties and NGOs on human rights practises in Malaysia, inclusive of those stated in the Federal Constitutions relating to freedom of speech, gather and movement.
It began work in April 2000 was mandated to promote human rights education, advise on legislation and policy, and conduct investigations. The first commissioner was Tun Musa Hitam, then replaced by Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman in April 2002 and current Commissioner for 2010-2013 is Tan Sri Hasmy Agam.
As we understand in our deliberation of United Nation Declaration on Human Rights here, the Declaration acknowledged that the freedom and rights in any country is limited by its law as long as the law is considered just and consistent with the Declaration. (Article 29)
Article 20 provide for freedom and right for assembly but it is described for "peaceful assembly." Article 3 provide for rights to security.
Our motivation to question SUHAKAM arise from several curious news reports and blog postings, such as the following report in The Star, below:
Tuesday May 29, 2012
Don’t appeal NCR cases, says Suhakam
KUALA LUMPUR: The Government should not appeal court decisions which favour and recognise the customary and land rights of the orang asli in the peninsula and indigenous people in Sabah and Sarawak.
“In my view, if the Government is serious about respecting the land rights of indigenous peoples, it should not have appealed in some of the cases,” said Suhakam commissioner Jannie Lasimbang.
Read on here
That statement from Suhakam commissioner Jannie Lasimbang is certainly strange and one sided.
While the customary rights of the indigenous people is acknowledged under the Constitution and law, it is unbecoming of her to demand the Government to not pursue the process of law.
While she is known activists and advocate of Sabahan native customary rights, she has to acknowledge that she must remain impartial in her role as a Human Rights Commissioner.
The Human Rights Declaration clearly appreciated the law as limitation to unlimited freedom and rights. The freedom and rights of an individuals or group of individuals need to be balanced with the freedom and rights of other individuals or groups of individuals.
At the end of January, 2012, a blogger, RBF Online here questioned the remarks made by a member of the Commission, Muhd Sha'ani Abdullah.
This was made while receiving a memorandum from a group calling themselves as ABU or Asal Bukan UMNO against alleged police actions to disperse their scheduled event in Jalan Kebun Shah Alam on January 21st 2012.
During the event, a group from the Indian group Hindraf made noises in a Malay area at about the time of the Muslim evening maghrib prayers and this received a bad reaction from the locals, including Malay opposition supporters.
Police had to step in to calm the situation and they requested ABU to disband their event to prevent further disturbance.
The Commissioners remarks was reported by Free Malaysia Today as below:
In the report, he made the following claims (in Malay):
Shaani berkata polis sepatutnya mendidik masyarakat supaya tidak mengambil tindakan yang bertentangan dengan undang-undang dan bukannya menggunakan hukum sendiri dengan menyerang majlis ceramah tersebut.
“Majlis diadakan oleh badan yang sah, bukannya majlis anjuran kongsi gelap. Kalau rakyat marah, pergi buat aduan polis bukan guna hukum sendiri,”
Basic questions arised from his remarks. Does he realised that ABU is an unregistered entity? Since when was Hindraf a lawfully registered body?
In midst February, the Ministry of Home Affairs had extradited Saudi Arabian writer, Mohammad Najeeb A. Kashgari who insulted the Prophet Muhamad back to Saudi Arabia. Blogger Anak Seberang posted Bice Chairman of SUHAKAM, Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee remarks here.
An extract in Malay below:
Naib Pengerusi Suhakam, Prof. Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee berkata, pengusiran beliau menjadi satu kejutan walaupun rayuan bertulis telah dibuat oleh Suhakam kepada Menteri Dalam Negeri, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein untuk mempertimbangkan kesnya agar selaras dengan prinsip hak asasi manusia dan khususnya prinsip bukan 'refoulment' di mana seseorang yang menghadapi penganiyaan di negara beliau tidak perlu dikembalikan ke negara tersebut.
"Pengusiran pulang Mohammad Najeeb akan mempunyai kesan negatif kepada negara kerana telah melanggar undang-undang dan instrumen hak asasi manusia antarabangsa," kata beliau dalam satu kenyataan dikeluarkan lewat malam tadi. Katanya, kolumnis itu telah pun dinafikan hak-hak tersebut di mana kes beliau telah menarik tajuk-tajuk utama media antarabangsa.
Hishammuddin appropriately explained that Malaysia will not harbour a criminal wanted by his home country. Malaysia is not a transit point for such criminals.
Article 9 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights clearly established the rights of Malaysia as a sovereign nation to refuse anyone deemed as broken the law of another country.
Why is SUHAKAM raising this as an issue? Is SUHAKAM subjecting itself to Western interest and values and also their interpretation of freedom and rights?
On to a more current and heated issue on the probe on police brutality to the April 28th 2012 Bersih 3.0 demonstration, there are strange arguments and decisions of SUHAKAM.
Before that, hear this You Tube recording of comments by Member of the Commission, Dr James Nayagam made the police acted.
Is the schedule time really pragmatically relevant and fundamental issue?
Seriously his view seems inconsistent with the spirit of the UN Declaration deliberated here.
Dr Nayagam and Prof Khaw expressed strong opinions against police brutality during the probe for Bersih 2.0.
Will they show that independence, impartiality and objectivity for the probe on Bersih 3.0 with the police clearly at the receiving end and had to resort to force consistent with the Police Act (read here)?
What about the rights of the police to perform their job without harassment and brutality by the unruly crowd on the police accorded under the UN Declaration?
And now to this The Star's report below:
Wednesday May 30, 2012
Bar: Why have two inquiries?
PETALING JAYA: The Bar Council has questioned why an independent panel is conducting a probe on the Bersih 3.0 gathering when Suhakam is also holding its own public inquiry on the incident.
Council chairman Christopher Leong said it was strange that the panel was proceeding with the inquiry when Suhakam, a statutory and independent commission, had stated that it would undertake a similar move.
He added that the Bar Council had stated that it would take part in the Suhakam inquiry and that it would not serve any useful purpose to duplicate the process.
“What purpose will it serve to have two inquiries?” he said yesterday.
He said Suhakam was the proper body to conduct the inquiry given that the commission had the experience, statutory mandate and legal framework to do so.
Leong said the Suhakam Act also provided the commission with all the prerequisites needed to carry out the investigation into the rally.
He also reiterated the council’s opposition to former Inspector-General of Police Tun Hanif Omar’s appointment as panel chairman.
“This is not about his integrity. The Bar Council does not question his integrity and respects that Tun Hanif has given invaluable service to the country.
“It is, unfortunately, about the perception of independence and public confidence in the panel,” he added.
Leong, however, said the Bar was willing to meet Hanif to discuss the matter.
It was reported that Hanif was willing to meet the Bar Council as well as Bersih leaders as part of the panel’s investigation, saying he wanted the inquiry team to be given a chance to carry out its duties without “suspicion” from any parties.
It strange for Christopher Leong to claim that The Bar Council did not question Tun Hanif's integrity.
Who is he trying to bull when Bar Council and Bersih in unison with the opposition clearly stated in the Malaysia Insider's report here to criticise Tun Hanif's appointment.
This is the bloke criticised by Hantu Laut here for making the oxymoron statement: "He said the council holds strong to its position that Tun Hanif Omar should be disqualified from the post of the panel’s chairman as the latter had already previously indicated his anti-Bersih views"
Then he said "however, that the council was not questioning Hanif’s integrity as it respects the former Inspector-General of Police’s contribution to the country"
On May 12th, Hasmy Agam was reported by The Malaysian Insiders [read here] as willing to give the IAP committee a chance in their call for the panel to be impartial. He was quoted as saying:
“The Commission awaits the determination of the terms of referenceof the Panel in the hope and expectation that they are consistent with the requirements of an inquiry that will conduct its work in a manner that is independent, impartial, transparent, and with integrity and without fear or favour.
“It is extremely important that any such inquiry... be conducted expeditiously, but also with great care so as to ensure that its process and outcome will... restore public confidence in the authorities, which is an essential attribute of a fully functional democracy which the people aspire for.”
Before Government could announce the 10 point term of reference (which was only announced recently on May 28th), SUHAKAM announced on May 21nd decided to go ahead with their own probe on the rally.
This impatience act is rather odd. Was it the Chairman decision or the influence of the Committee?
Predictably, the opposition biased Bar decided to not participate and view it as pointless to participate in the Panel established by the Government. Christopher Leong was quoted by The Malaysian Insider dated May 29th [read here] as saying:
“We do not see the purpose to duplicate the process... we already said earlier that we would participate in Suhakam’s inquiry. There is no public purpose served by duplicating the enquiry process.
The Bar Council is losing credibility and is under heavy criticism. They showed themselves to be clearly bias for Bersih 3.0 in their report (read our criticism here). The most embarassing thing is Bar Council had allegedly illegally endorsed the paper EGM which allowed legal trainee to vote.
Is SUHAKAM playing to the opposition and NGOs gallery and working in concert with Bar Council?
As a Government body, SUHAKAM should at least be supportive and complimenting other Government effort. As The Star wrote in their The Editors column, Tun Hanif should be allowed to carry his job.
Wednesday May 30, 2012
Time to let Hanif’s advisory panel get on with the job
THE STAR SAYS . . .
ON May 9, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein announced the setting up of the independent advisory panel on the Bersih 3.0 rally to be headed by former Inspector-General of Police Tun Hanif Omar.
In the highly-charged and emotive atmosphere prevailing at that time, when charges and counter-charges were continuously hurled by various parties over what actually went wrong on April 28, the announcement obviously did not go down well with many.
The debate over whether Hanif was the right person to head the panel was acrimonious, and at times, personal. Amidst the fog of uncertainty, one wondered whether anyone was serious about wanting to see the real picture.
To his credit, Hanif did not get rattled by the attack as he saw his appointment simply as his duty to serve the nation and unravel the truth.
He wanted the public to judge the panel on its work and not through some preconceived notion that this would be an exercise in futility with a foregone conclusion.
Let's give him and his team the chance to get on with their work.
From the 10-point terms of reference revealed on Monday, it is clear that the panel knows what are the issues that the public want addressed.
The panel has agreed, among other things, to establish whether:
> the authorities adhered to lawful procedures and actions, particularly in the use of force including tear gas and water cannons;
> there was random and widespread physical assault and brutality by the police;
> there was unlawful confiscation and/or destruction of photographs and video recordings made by members of the public and media professionals;
> there was unlawful, unwarranted arrest of the public and media professionals, and whether anyone was assaulted and beaten while in police custody; and
> lawyers were unlawfully denied access to their clients in police custody.
It has taken an open approach to consult all individuals and parties concerned to find out the cause of the disorder at Dataran Merdeka and the surrounding areas that day.
It is time for these individuals and parties to step forward to assist the panel.
As Hanif puts it: “It is my hope that this panel will be given the space to carry out its duties without any prejudice from any party.”
The Hanif panel is seeking to also review police standard operating procedures on crowd control and compare these with the practices recommended by the United Nations and other democratic societies, with a view to making recommendations if necessary.
That is a noble thing to do and we should give the panel our fullest cooperation.
Let us not be held to ransom by those who want to continually see things in a divisive manner, who want only to have things that will go their way.
Ironically, even those who demonise the judicial system or the electoral system continue to run to the courts for justice and stand for elections.
The question to ask here is not who is right, but what is right. To be sure, there are imperfections in every system but we must be committed to working to make things better.
The independence, impartiality and objectivity of the members of SUHAKAM and their perceived syncronicity with the Bar Council is really put to question.
Does this inclination has to do with the fact the then Bar Council Vice Chairman, Lim Chee Wee sat in the three man panel appointed by the Prime Minister to select the candidates for the Prime Minister and Agong to appoint as Members of the SUHAKAM.
Read this 2010 news report below:
Did Lim had a strong influence to sway the nine candidates selected as to ensure that SUHAKAM will have biasness for the opposition and their left leaning NGOs, including the Bar Council?
The nine candidates proposed for the 2010-2013 members were Malaysia’s former permanent representative to the United Nations Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, Universiti Malaya deputy vice-chancellor (Development) Prof Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee, International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation deputy dean Prof Datuk Dr Mahmood Zuhdi Abd Majid, Sabahan native customary rights advocate Jannie Lasimbang, Sarawakian lawyer Detta Samen, Children’s rights advocate Dr James Nayagam, Women’s rights advocate (and Bersih 3.0 Committee member) Maria Chin Abdullah, Fomca secretary-general Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah and Former Abim president Ahmad Azam Abdul Rahman.
Subsequently, the names of Maria Chin and Ahmad Azam was omitted in the final list of members.
It is a non issue because already an influencial Malay-language blog, Sanggah Tok Janggut here express observation that SUHAKAM as not an independent, impartial and objective body and claimed they have succumbed to the opposition party political agenda. An extract from his blog below:
SUHAKAM bukan lagi badan bebas malah Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia ini sudah terjebak malah menjebakkan diri dalam politik kepartian dan ada angggota mereka berselindung di sebalik nama Hak Asasi sedangkan dalam masa yang sama sedang mencucuk jarum serta memainkan peranan untuk Suruhanjaya ini menjadi tunggangan kepada pembangkang.
Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi ini yang sepatutnya berfungsi sejajar dengan kehendak Perlembagaan Persekutuan, peruntukan undang-undang sedia ada dalam konteks Negara Malaysia iaitu demokrasi berparlimen dan Raja Berperlembagaan sudah tergelicir dari landasan asas penubuhan mereka kerana suruhanjaya ini lebih mengambil pendekatan hak asasi Negara barat untuk diaplikasikan dalam Negara ini.
He alleged that four out of the seven SUHAKAM members are pro-oppositions and acting as "gunting dalam lipatan". That speculation looks probable.
Hmmm ... could the Chairman be under the control of the four that we are kept waiting to eternity for our appointment? That is an abuse of our human rights to not be deprive of public service!
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