Archive for category Human Rights

Polls results set back democracy in Malaysia, say analysts

by Lee Shi-Ian
The Malaysian Insider
December 17, 2013

The May 5 general election results have set back democracy in Malaysia rather than advancing democratic change, as the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) has put more restrictive laws for politics, an analyst said in a Commonwealth magazine.

Professor William Case of the Hong Kong City University said Umno used the 13th general election results to instigate racial polarisation, which proved to be helpful in launching attacks on DAP and the Chinese community.

“If Umno elites had grown fractious after Malaysia’s 12th general election, they displayed new unity, even defiance, after Malaysia’s 13th general election (GE13). Thus, they perpetuated the ethnic suspicions of the Chinese that they had heightened during the campaigning; and they imposed new controls on opposition party leaders and organisers.

“Far from advancing democratic change, then, GE13 has served to roll democracy back,” Case said in the abstract of his analysis in the latest issue of The Round Table, the Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs. Read the rest of this entry »

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David Cameron says Sri Lanka need to go ‘further and faster’ in answering human rights concerns

The Telegraph
16 Nov 2013

David Cameron put Sri Lanka on notice on Saturday to address allegations of war crimes within months or else he would lead a push for action at the United Nations.

Speaking at a troubled Commonwealth summit in Colombo, the British Prime Minister warned his hosts that pressure over alleged abuses at the end of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict was not about to go away.

He also told of how he had “frank” exchanges with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa after he returned from a historic visit to the war-torn Jaffna region. Read the rest of this entry »

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Uthayakumar was in solitary confinement, not in a “dark room”, says Prison Department

The Malaysian Insider
October 25, 2013

The Prisons Department has denied placing Hindraf leader P Uthayakumar in a “dark room” during his solitary confinement at Kajang Prison.

In a letter sent to the home minister and prime minister, the department said that there were “no dark rooms” in any prison in Malaysia.

The letter, read out by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar in Parliament yesterday, also said that Uthayakumar had been placed in solitary confinement for a total of 13 days on two separate occasions as he had “refused to take instructions”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Prisoner of conscience Uthaya paying dearly for defying the government

CPI introduction

We are reproducing below the letter of P. Uthayakumar addressed to the Prime Minister, Najib Razak, and Home Minister, Zahid Hamidi, describing the horrific conditions of his imprisonment in Kajang Prison.

No prisoner in our country – or indeed any other civilized country – deserves such brutal and abusive treatment. It is clear that the prison authorities, with the tacit agreement of their political masters, are determined to break Uthayakumar’s health and spirit and to make him pay dearly for his defiance of the government in pursuing the cause of marginalized Indians in the country.

Uthaya’s plight is little known to most Malaysians with the mainstream mass media complicit in erecting a wall of silence on his case and refusing to share with the public the various appeals made by Hindraf; his family and Uthaya himself.

CPI hopes that other stakeholders, besides those to whom it is directly addressed, will be catalyzed by this letter to urgently take up his case as well as the larger issue of abusive and inhumane prison conditions, and the selective harsh treatment meted out to special cases that have been highlighted.

Immediate action is needed to ensure that Uthaya, who in our view clearly qualifies as a political prisoner of conscience, is treated with the decency, humanity and respect that he deserves, and for the vindictive and abusive treatment meted out to him to be stopped.
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Discrepancy and inconsistency: Calls for withdrawal of PCA from Parliament

- Datuk Kuthbul Zaman Bukhari and Dr Denison Jayasooria
The Malaysian Insider
October 01, 2013

Proham has identified discrepancy and inconsistency between what is said and what is written in the proposed amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act (PCA) and calls on the Federal Government to withdraw the bill from Parliament for further consultation and redrafting.

Proham hosted a discussion on the proposed amendments to the PCA yesterday. The review was undertaken by Datuk Kuthbul Zaman Bukhari who led the discussion –paragraph by paragraph.

We identified a number of major concerns and acknowledge that this proposed piece of legislation is a clear backward step away from human rights compliance. We are of the opinion that this is a major assault on human rights since Datuk Seri Najib Razak took office as Prime Minister. We also note that this is inconsistent with the promises he made when he took office as the Prime Minister and in the promises for democratic reform made during the general election (GE13).

We also note that there are major discrepancies and inconsistencies between the verbal statements and assurance made by the Prime Minister, Home Affairs Minister and other ministers and the actual text of the proposed amendments to the PCA. We are told verbally that this new legislation is not a return of the ISA, that this is focused only on criminal-violent gangs and that the decisions will be made by a judge. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mind Your ‘Transformation’, Please!

By Kee Thuan Chye
Yahoo! News
30th Sept. 2013

“Transformational” is getting to be a hollow word. And the Cabinet ministers who brandish it at will don’t seem to understand its meaning. Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi just showed he doesn’t when he said the bringing back of detention without trial in the newly proposed Prevention of Crime (Amendment and Extension) Bill was “transformational”. Was he using it simply to be in fashionable sync with the Government Transformation Programme?

Is something retrogressive transformational? Is a return to the provisions of the repealed draconian Emergency Ordinance (EO) and Internal Security Act (ISA) transformational? If it is so, then Malaysians are in for a big surprise. And a nasty one too.

Both acts were considered reprehensible to the public, and therefore the Government was forced to remove them. But that was before the 13th general election was called. Now that it’s over, the Government apparently sees no more need in appeasing the public. Pre-election pledges have gone out the window.

A government that is transformational would not hark back to the dark days of Mahathir Mohamad’s reign, when fear was the instrument used to keep people in line. It should instead be demolishing Mahathirism and restoring the damage done to our institutions. No wonder Mahathir is applauding the Bill and blaming the public for “not (being) that developed or educated to appreciate that the law is for their own good”. But then, that’s Mahathir. Always blaming other people. And always asserting that might is right.

The new Bill proposes detaining a suspect for an initial two years, after which period if a review finds that the suspect should be detained further, he will be held for a further two years. This could go on indefinitely in a series of two-year periods. In this sense, it is no different from the EO and the ISA. Read the rest of this entry »

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PCA has all the characteristics of ISA!

by P Ramakrishnan
28 September 2013

It is worrying and troubling that the BN government has chosen to return to the days of darkness and abuse.

This is what it means when the government tabled the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (PCA) on Wednesday, 23 September 2013.

On the one hand, the BN government had repealed the Emergency Ordinance (EO) and Internal Security Act (ISA) with the Prime Minister guaranteeing over national television that there would be no more preventive detention.

On the other hand, this hypocritical government is now tabling laws that will bring back with a vengeance the same detention without trial along with the ouster of the court’s jurisdiction over this detention. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia’s future will be fuller of promise if only Najib could practise in the country the principles and values of moderation that he preaches at international forums

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday delivered another “fantastic” speech abroad, stating his belief that many of the world’s current problems can be solved if society subscribed to the whole concept of moderation.

He said if the society and governments used moderation in their actions and policies, then the country would have a much more just, fair and inclusive society.

He said moderation was based on certain principles and sound values, like justice, sense of fairness, and choosing dialogue over confrontation, and negotiation over conflict.

One can easily imagine a national sigh at such a report with the overwhelming reaction from Malaysians the quite unanimous one that the country’s future will be fuller of promise if only Najib could practise in the nation the principles and values of moderation that he preaches at international forums.

If the Najib administration had stayed true to the principles and sound values of moderation in governing the country like justice, sense of fairness, and choosing dialogue over confrontation, and negotiation over conflict, Malaysia will not today be at the critical crossroads some five months after the 13th general elections, struggling to achieve a Malaysian Dream with all Malaysians regardless of race, religion or region as equal national stakeholders at a time of unprecedented racial and religious politicking and polarisation, with the well of public discourse continuously poisoned by language of hatred, intolerance and unethical resort to lies and falsehoods. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pak Samad – always the people’s artist

By Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
Free Malaysia Today
September 21, 2013

A democratic society seeks to unleash the creativity of all its citizens and to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of its most gifted and dedicated, not otherwise.


I refer to the utterly insightful and undeniably powerful essay of Jeswan Kaur, ‘Pak Samad isn’t the problem here’, published in FMT on Sept 8.

I beg the indulgence of the reader and may I be allowed to add a few words of concurrence and to explicate my own take on the whole matter.

According to the National Cultural Policy of the Australian government, the role of the artist is as follows:

“A democratic society seeks to unleash the creativity of all its citizens and to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of its most gifted and dedicated. The value of creativity is something that is increasingly recognised and valued. Creativity is an essential attribute in an increasing number of occupations.

“The most gifted artists, however, take the ability to imagine, adapt, empathise and collaborate to another level through training, practice, discipline and courage. The extraordinary achievements that come when the most gifted individuals combine capacity and skill is something we recognise.”

From this description, we can deduce that artists are creative people and that their creativity is necessary for the development of one’s society. Further said, creativity is something that must be recognized and valued by the said society that produced the artist. Read the rest of this entry »

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A matter of human dignity

by KJ John
Sep 17, 2013

I was touched and moved by Marina Mahathir’s excellent treatise on the value of human dignity in her most recent column in The Star. Hers related to our school system. That motivated me to share my own experience and that of my two sons in our school system.

My experience of abuse

First my own experience given that I am now already 63 years old. Yes, when I was in Form Two, in the Ibrahim Secondary School of Sungai Petani, one afternoon, my friend Gobalkrishnan and I went to play basketball in our school. We borrowed the school basketball which was kept by the canteen operator after signing our names in the book.

While we were making hoop shots a younger student in school uniform came and asked to take the basketball for his class because his teacher wanted the ball for his PE class. We said no, as we had borrowed and signed for it.

After a while the class teacher turned up with the same boy and asked for the ball; I said the same thing that we had signed up for the ball to play. He slapped me across the face and threw the ball at my friend’s head. Then they walked away with our ball! Read the rest of this entry »

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Malala delivers defiant riposte to Taliban militants as UN hails ‘our hero’

Ed Pilkington in New York
The Guardian, Friday 12 July 2013

‘They thought that the bullet would silence us. But they failed,’ says Malala, 16, at UN to push campaign for girls’ education

When the Taliban sent a gunman to shoot Malala Yousafzai last October as she rode home on a bus after school, they made clear their intention: to silence the teenager and kill off her campaign for girls’ education.

Nine months and countless surgical interventions later, she stood up at the United Nations on her 16th birthday on Friday to deliver a defiant riposte. “They thought that the bullet would silence us. But they failed,” she said.

As 16th birthdays go, it was among the more unusual. Instead of blowing out candles on a cake, Malala sat in one of the United Nation’s main council chambers in the central seat usually reserved for world leaders.

She listened quietly as Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, described her as “our hero, our champion”; and as the former British prime minister and now UN education envoy, Gordon Brown, uttered what he called “the words the Taliban never wanted her to hear: happy 16th birthday, Malala”.

The event, dubbed Malala Day, was the culmination of an extraordinary four years for the girl from Mingora, in the troubled Swat valley of Pakistan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Respecting our children’s freedom

Amar Singh
The Malaysian Insider
July 02, 2013

I want to thank every media or editor that has spoken up against the proposal by our government to introduce a law allowing one parent to change their children’s religion. It shows the courage of that media/editor and expresses the opinion of the majority of Malaysians. This attempt by the government to introduce such a law is a violation of the basic human rights of any individual and shows how little they respect the fundamental freedoms of our children.

The United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has been available since 1989 and signed by our Malaysian Prime Minister in December 1994. The UNCRC outlines the basic rights that should be accorded to any child. The fact that Malaysia is signatory underlines that the government of Malaysia is committed to uphold these fundamental rights. When countries ratify the Convention, they agree to review their laws relating to children.

Article 3 of the UNCRC clearly states that the best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect children. And that all adults, including the governing body of the country, should do what is best for children. This clearly includes policies and laws.

Article 14 speaks about the freedom of thought, conscience and religion. To quote “Children have the right to think and believe what they want and to practise their religion, as long as they are not stopping other people from enjoying their rights. Parents should help guide their children in these matters. The Convention respects the rights and duties of parents in providing religious and moral guidance to their children. Religious groups around the world have expressed support for the Convention, which indicates that it in no way prevents parents from bringing their children up within a religious tradition. At the same time, the Convention recognises that as children mature and are able to form their own views, some may question certain religious practices or cultural traditions. The Convention supports children’s right to examine their beliefs, but it also states that their right to express their beliefs implies respect for the rights and freedoms of others.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Conversion of minors: No justification

P Ramakrishnan
21 June 2013

The Federal Court was wrong in its judgment in 2008 about the conversion of minors, says P Ramakrishnan.

A lot has been said that Islam is a just religion, a religion of peace and compassion. All this is true. In keeping with the virtues and values of Islam, Islamic adherents are under a solemn obligation to give meaning to this by what they do and practise.

In other words, the Islamic faithful cannot be indifferent to the fate of someone who is of a different religion. They cannot deny the rights of these people nor can they be dismissive of the suffering when one Islamic faithful leaves his former family in the lurch after converting.

As a human being, he is expected to provide for his wife and children notwithstanding his embrace of Islam. If he fails to discharge this responsibility that is expected of him, should Islam embrace him? Should a man who betrays the trust of a family and abdicates his responsibility be welcome into Islam? Should such people be allowed to bring disrepute to the religion?

Unfortunately this is what is too often happening today. Secretly, the man converts, and all hell breaks loose for the family. He is not bothered. He compounds the misery of his wife by unilaterally converting his children to Islam. He shatters the life of a mother; and claims refuge in Islam. There is a moral question here.

One would expect religious authorities to guide him in the path of righteousness before he is allowed to convert. He should be advised to exemplify Islamic virtues by displaying compassion and discharging his responsibility to his family before he can find a place in Islam.

The religious authorities contribute to the family break-up when they convert his children without the knowledge or consent of their mother. By so doing, they add to the suffering of the helpless mother. Is this fair? Read the rest of this entry »

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Bring the army to a rally? Let’s dial it down, shall we?

– Lionel Morais
Managing Editor
The Malaysian Insider
Jun 21, 2013

Federal Internal Security and Public Order director Datuk Saleh Mat Rasid hit a raw nerve yesterday when he said that the army will help the police, if necessary, at the Black 505 rally tomorrow.

He was roundly criticised and rightly so.

Use the army against unarmed Malaysians at a rally? Unbelievable!

These are just people fighting for what they believe is right. They are not the Sulu terrorists and this is not Ops Daulat II.

So what exactly is it that anybody thinks the police cannot handle?

There have been about a dozen protest rallies since the May 5 polls and not one turned violent or chaotic. Read the rest of this entry »

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Protests and Political Change

– Khoo Ying Hooi
The Malaysian Insider
June 20, 2013

Saturday 22 June marks the 15th Black 505 rallies since the May 2013 polls. One of the key aims of the protest is to press for the resignation of Election Commission members following the alleged irregularities and rampant electoral fraud during the 13th General Election. Just recently, the Co-Chair of Bersih, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan has also conceded that perhaps taking to the streets could be the only way left in order to fight for electoral reform in this country should its extensive campaigns through legal channels to clean up the electoral system fails.

Bersih as the pioneer in electoral reform has so far held three massive protests in the past since 2007. Although the protests had drawn international attention and condemnation to the current administration, but the actual reforms have yet to be seen. For example, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform (PSC) that was established in 2011 was seen as a good move, however there is no follow-up mechanism for the lengthy 22 recommendations. Read the rest of this entry »

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Zahid may want to be an UMNO “hero” for the upcoming UMNO party elections by being a macho and belligerent Home Minister who dare to declare DAP unlawful even if it is gross abuse of power

The statement by the director-general of Registry of Societies (RoS) Datuk Abdul Rahman Othman that many DAP members who were eligible to attend its national congress on December 15 last year did not receive notice to do so is both baseless and most unprofessional.

It is a “political twist” to the RoS investigations into the DAP and I see a political “black hand” behind it – all the way to the new Home Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Zahid Hamidi.

Since becoming the new Home Minister a forthnight ago, Zahid had tried to politicise all the departments under him.

Firstly, being the most “political” Home Minister in partnership with the most “political” Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, he has created mayhem to police priorities, allowing crime and the fear of crime among Malaysians to run riot because he is obsessed with using police powers to crack down on Pakatan Rakyat leaders and social activists – not having said a single word on the primary duty of the police to keep crime rate low as well as to eradicate the people’s pervasive fear of crime.

As a result, Zahid’s two-week term as Home Minister takes on the hues of a return of Mahathirism, with arrests and prosecution of Pakatan Rakyat leaders and social activists while Umno/BN leaders and their kind enjoy immunity and impunity for the most sedious and racist utterances. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia’s deep divides

by John Berthelsen
Asia Sentinel
May 29, 2013 10:49AM UTC

National elections on May 5 haven’t cooled political and racial tensions, writes Asia Sentinel’s John Berthelsen

Any hope that May 5 national elections in Malaysia would cool the political atmosphere appears to have been misguided, leaving a country entangled in deepening racial problems and creating the risk of a real threat to the legitimacy of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s reign.

While not calling for Najib’s removal, the prime minister’s most potent critic, former Premier Mahathir Mohamad, damned him with faint praise, telling Bloomberg News in an interview in Tokyo last week that the United Malays National Organization will continue to support him “because of a lack of an alternative.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Are we really independent?

P Gunasegaram
Mar 29, 2013

QUESTION TIME On the eve of the general election, it is appropriate to take a moment to reflect on how independent are we really.

What a moment it must have been when Malaysia (then Malaya) achieved independence from the British on Aug 31, 1957 and the flag of the newly independent country was raised.

At five years old, I was too young to remember what it was like then but have vague memories of my brother getting lost on a family visit to Kuala Lumpur town during the celebrations and being taken care of by policemen, before he was reunited with our parents.

It must have held so much hope for Malayans of all races and religions who put aside their differences to work for the formation of a new nation.

Tunku Abdul Rahman declared himself the happiest prime minister in the world and was proud of the fact that independence was achieved via negotiation without a single drop of blood being shed.

To be sure there were differences and in the years before independence there was much debate and agonising over how a disparate country of Chinese and Indian immigrants, many of whom had nowhere else but Malaya to call home, were to be integrated with the majority Malay community.

But there was a plan and everyone stuck to it and the country became independent. The communist threat had been beaten back although it would take until the sixties before they were more or less completely vanquished.

We were independent but how free were we? And did not independence mean freedom as well? Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia uses spyware against own citizens, NYT reports

By Boo Su-Lyn
The Malaysian Insider
Mar 14, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — Malaysia is among 25 countries using off-the-shelf spyware to keep tabs on citizens by secretly grabbing images off computer screens, recording video chats, turning on cameras and microphones, and logging keystrokes, US newspaper the New York Times (NYT) reported yesterday.

Besides Malaysia, researchers at Citizen Lab based at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs found that the United States, Singapore, Indonesia and Britain also used the surveillance software known as FinSpy.

“Rather than catching kidnappers and drug dealers, it looks more likely that it is being used for politically motivated surveillance,” security researcher Morgan Marquis-Boire was quoted by NYT as saying.

Martin J. Muench, managing director of Gamma Group — a British company that sells FinSpy — has reportedly said that Gamma Group sold its technology to governments solely to monitor criminals, and that it was most often used against “paedophiles, terrorists, organised crime, kidnapping and human trafficking”.

Marquis-Boire, however, pointed out that the software was open to abuse, saying: “If you look at the list of countries that Gamma is selling to, many do not have a robust rule of law.”

Other countries with servers running FinSpy include Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Qatar, Serbia, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lesson from ‘listen, listen, listen’

by Azly Rahman
Jan 17, 2012

As a student of Cultural-Philosophical Studies with a passion in radical educational change framed within the context of cybernating-hypermodern societies such as Malaysia, I see the “Bawani-Zohra Affair” as emblematic of a nation gone berserk on the issue of freedom of speech and the culture of dialogue and public discourse.

We are in an ‘amuck-latah’ mood. The nation, at least in cyberspace, is furious (amuck) of what happened, and the protagonist of the propaganda machine fumbled big-time (latah) assuming that the teaching techniques of the “top-down, humiliate-first, no-apologies later” of many a Biro Tata Negara speaker can still be deployed unreservedly onto university students at the time when amateur videos can go viral, when tweets can flow like a tsunami, and when Facebook pages can be created in a fraction of seconds.

That’s the mistaken assumption – that the Frankenstein called “social media technology” will also not run amuck helping those silenced to have their poetic justice, and those humiliated to become an honourable being raised to the level of stardom, overnight.

It is said that at times, you do not need to find the revolution – for the revolution will find you. The revolution found both Bawani and Zohra in such an ‘absurd’ way, such as in many of the plots of French surrealist dramas like Eugene Ionesco’s rhinoceros running wild on the city streets, and Kafka’s character moving from desolation to awareness in “Metamorphosis”.

The timing was perfect, like that storm brewing right after the almost-a-million Malaysian march to take over Putrajaya; after the Deepak drama which was over-played, overdosing even the older folks; after the successes of all those Bersih rallies, and many other watersheds upon watersheds of consciousness-raising events, and ultimately, after the last hurrah circa GE13 – all these ripened the relevance of the fateful “Bawani-Zohra” rendezvous.

Hence, Malaysians saw not only an explosion of anger, but one that fuelled tremendous amounts of creative products, mainly in the realm of multimedia (music videos, Facebook and Internet posters, audio and video materials, and the production of other forms of creative artifacts inspired by the mantra “listen-listen-listen…”). Read the rest of this entry »

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