Suhakam – Maintaining the Line

Suhakam is trying not to be caught and used by either side in the Hindraf-related arrests. They insist that law and order is a priority but once street protests become rowdy and break the laws, then the police have a right to move in. Common sense but the Malaysian police also have a habit of asserting that all demonstrations would turn violent, a familiar adage to a Singapore watcher. Musa Hitam, a former Malaysian DPM who led Suhakam for a period after retiring from the BN government, has this to say.

“The possibility of a non-riot, nonviolent (demonstration) has never been looked at. The rules to establish orderliness have never been tried. It could fail. But try it.”

If Musa Hitam still has loyalties to his BN government, he is certainly not showing it and exudes political independence instead. Maybe if there is ever a human rights mechanism in Singapore, Ngiam Tong Dow could be one candidate to chair it. He knows how the government works and thinks, and he has shown his independent apolitical streak lately.
2007/12/16 NST
Suhakam’s stand on use of ISA consistent, says Siva Subramaniam


THE Malaysian Human Rights Commission’s (Suhakam) stand on the use of the Internal Security Act (ISA) has always been consistent.

Commission member Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said any detention without trial was not an accepted norm under the declaration of human rights and emergency ordinance.

Referring to a statement made by Malaysian Hindu Council chairman Datuk R. Nadarajah of Friday, which indicated Suhakam’s presence during a meeting between the Prime Minister and 14 NGOs, Subramaniam said he attended the meeting to listen and voice his opinion on issues affecting national unity.

“Nadarajah probably mentioned Suhakam just to add credibility. I was not there as a Suhakam representative,” he said.

“As far as we (Suhakam) are concerned, if someone has violated the law of the country, they should be tried in court and given a chance to defend their actions. This is justice,” added Subramaniam.

2007/12/15 Malay Mail
PUBLIC demonstrations in the present climate are not conducive.

This was the response of Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Ismail Omar to a suggestion by former Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chairman, Tun Musa Hitam, that the authorities ought to consider allowing peaceful demonstrations.

“We have to look at the present situation, and right now, given the action and demands of groups like Hindraf, it’s not conducive for us to allow demonstrations, ” Ismail told Weekend Mail.

He said police could not allow demonstrations due to concerns of public safety.

“The public is already scared and alarmed by what’s happening, and that’s why we cannot allow such things.” Musa, when contacted by Weekend Mail, stressed that whatever the context, those involved have to abide by the pro- cedures and first of all obtain a permit to hold a demonstration.

“The law is clear on the matter. You need to apply for and have a permit. That is the pro- cedure, so they have to follow it.”

In a recent interview, Musa had been quoted as saying that the public had the right to hold peaceful demonstrations. He had said that peaceful demonstrations where those involved abide by strict procedures and with traffic and regular police present to ensure orderliness could work in the Malaysian context but has never been tried.

“Right now, demonstrations tend to be automatically dis- missed as events which are definitely going to lead to a disaster, ” he had said.

“But, if we have a focused ex- amination of the situation, and form a methodology or system- atic approach (to it) maybe it might work.”

Musa had said that “it was now in the psyche of people, the police and in the psyche of the demonstrators, that when’s there a demonstration, there’s going to be violence.”

He had also said that Malaysia, after 50 years of Independence, was ready for peaceful assemblies. If conducted in the right manner, he had argued, we would see to it that such demonstrations would not impinge on other people’s rights.

“If advance notice is given and routes are determined and or- derliness is ensured, people are going to say “look, there’s a demonstration. It’s going to pass through here. Come, let’s watch,” he had said.

“But if demonstrators don’t ob- serve the regulations, then we can impose severe penalties and this can even be included in the law.”

Musa had also argued that while demonstrations were often labelled as “not our culture”, the culture of violence was not practiced anywhere in the world.

The right to peaceful assembly is enshrined in our democratic system.

The rights exist but it is the application of that right and the administration of it that we have issue with, said Musa.

“The possibility of a non-riot, nonviolent (demonstration) has never been looked at. The rules to establish orderliness have never been tried. It could fail. But try it.”


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