Dignity and Justice for all of us

The title of this post is the slogan for Human Rights Day, 10 December 2007 and from Monday, it is the year long commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration is an imperfect document, but still a set of guidelines that should inspire leaders and people.

Malaysia is still ahead of Singapore in the human rights scene. They have a national human rights mechanism, Suhakam and their Bar Society is robust in redefining the boundaries of the government’s acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Incidentally, while the Bar Society did not seemingly fully support the latest protest it did back its members up when they were arrested. The recent protests since November 10 and government arrest is interesting on how boundaries are constantly being redrawn. Malaysia generally allows protests if permits are applied for. But when permits are rejected, then the protest technically becomes illegal. But still the protestors would march, saying that the ban on the march is uncalled for.

So what is the issue here? Who is abusing the people’s trust? The Bersih, Hindraf and Human Rights Day marches are not the same. THe Hindraf march has a taint of religiously and racially charged tit-for-tat mischief while the Bersih and Sunday’s march is more credible. Anyway, Malaysia’s patience is disappearing fast. This is the third major protest since November 10, and ringleaders are already being rounded up. Singapore’s authorities are probably updating their checklist on what to do and not to do on street protests, since they also hold the line that stability and public safety is more important than public freedom. I don’t dispute this idea, but who is the judge ultimately?

Also, this hypocritical quote is priceless and will only set the ground aflame.

“Abdullah also urged voters not to be swayed by groups that stir racial sentiments to reap political support.

“If voters are easily persuaded … by people playing the racial card, then we are heading for disaster,” he said.”

Isn’t that what the blatant bumiputra policy and the waving of the kris at the UMNO assembly all about?

Malaysia’s leader says public freedoms can be sacrificed for stability’s sake
The Associated Press
Monday, December 10, 2007

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia: Malaysia’s leader said Monday he is willing to sacrifice public freedoms for the sake of national stability, a day after police arrested 21 opposition members and lawyers who took part in street protests.

Human rights activists have accused authorities of clamping down on freedom of expression by banning recent rallies aimed at calling for electoral reforms, government transparency and racial equality.

However, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that efforts to ensure Malaysia’s security demand “a sense of accountability to the whole, rather than the few.”

“If the choice is between public safety and public freedoms, I do not hesitate to say here that public safety will always win,” Abdullah said in a speech to corporate leaders.

“I will not sacrifice my sense of accountability to the greater public, especially in the face of police intelligence about planned fighting or other violent intent,” Abdullah said. “We must never ever take our peace for granted.”

Abdullah’s administration has been rocked by a Nov. 10 rally in Kuala Lumpur — which drew some 30,000 people demanding electoral fairness ahead of national polls widely expected early next year — followed by a similarly large protest by minority ethnic Indians on Nov. 25 to complain of racial discrimination and economic deprivation.

Police arrested 12 members of an opposition coalition Sunday for taking part in the Nov. 10 rally, as well as nine people, including several lawyers, involved in a march for human rights earlier Sunday. Most of the lawyers were charged with illegal assembly Monday.

The government has also charged 31 Indians with attempted murder after a policeman was injured at the Nov. 25 rally.

Authorities had banned all the gatherings, saying they could threaten public order.

Abdullah pledged Monday to work to ensure political and economic justice, but added that people must remember “there are many groups within the country — each with their own sets of demands, each with their own set of sensitivities.”

“These differences are very real, yet we do not descend into sheer unmitigated chaos,” he said.

Abdullah also urged voters not to be swayed by groups that stir racial sentiments to reap political support.

“If voters are easily persuaded … by people playing the racial card, then we are heading for disaster,” he said.

Ethnic Malay Muslims, who comprise some 60 percent of Malaysia’s 27 million people, control political power. Many ethnic Chinese and Indians, who form the two main minority communities, complain their grievances are ignored, especially regarding an affirmative action program that gives privileges to Malays in business, jobs and education.


3 responses

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 12 Dec 2007 « The Singapore Daily

  2. pennies

    you know, if you have exhausted all possible avenues of diplomacy and civil dialog with the power that be and they still insist that they are right and you wrong, what do you do next? if the issues are serious and concern the masses,you may want to take your message directly to the masses as your next option wouldn’t you?

    using legislation and military force to stop you for fear of public safety could be a ruse to silence the truth. unless the power that be are completely non self seeking, we need to provide outlets for alternative voices.

    granted street protest may jeopardize public safety, the next best option is to perhaps apportion a section of the national papers entirely for such outlets.

    for it to work, the press, of course, must be independent.

    that way, public safety and economic obstruction are not compromised.

    December 12, 2007 at 10:57 pm

  3. chemgen

    Hi pennies

    I agree with most of what you have to say.

    For the media, an independent press is not as important as a diversified media in terms of politics. Even in Western countries, the media is never independent and seldom impartial. But the huge spread of views from one end of the spectrum to the other keeps the entire fourth estate system viable.

    I think permits should be allowed in most cases, it is only the conditions that comes with the permits should be tighter or looser depending on the context, so people still can take to the streets peacefully but once there is trouble, then the police can be activated.

    December 13, 2007 at 10:40 am

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