Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on Oct. 24, 1977 when moving a motion to ratify the International Covenant on civil and Political Rights 1966 adopted by the General Assembly on Dec. 16, 1966
Call on Malaysian Government to make an unequivocal commitment to human rights by ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations by 106 votes to none on December 16, 1966
On 16 December 1966, the United General Assembly, by 106 votes to none, adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 under which, each State Party undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the Covenant without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion’, popolitical or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Among the rights recognized in the Covenant are the right of all peoples to self-determination; the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of civil and political rights; the right to life; protection from torture and from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; protection from slavery; the right to liberty and security of person; the right, when deprived of liberty, to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person; the right to liberty of movement within the territory of a State; the right to liberty of movement within the territory of a State; the right to freedom of through, conscience and religion; to right to hold opinions without interference; the right of peaceful assembly; the right to freedom of association; the right to protection of the family and children; and rights for the protection of minorities.
Although the Covenant for opened for signature and ratification on Dec. 19, 1966, Malaysia, 11 years later, have not ratified the Covenant although it had adopted it in the General Assembly.
I call on the Malaysian Government to make an unequivocal commitment to human rights by ratification of the International Covenant. Why is the Malaysia Government prepared to cote for its adoption in the General Assembly, and yet not prepared to ratify it when the Covenant was open for signature since Dec.19,
This shows that the Malaysian Government is not sincere about its verbal commitment to human rights. In fact, there are Ministers who talk glibly about human rights as a luxury for which countries like Malaysia cannot afford. I say that countries of governments which are not concerned about human rights have ceased to be concerned about human beings.
The reason why the Malaysian Government is not prepared to ratify the International Covenant Civil and Political Rights is that the human rights record of Malaysia is a dismal one.
Malaysian Government is prepared to vote for the Covenant in the General Assembly, which gives it favourable publicity, but not to ratify the Covenant, which provides for enforcement procedures to implement human rights of political and civil nature laid down in the Covenant.
Thus, Article 28 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides for the establishment of a Human Rights Committee consisting 18 members, nationals of State Parties to the Covenant, who are persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights. The Committee is charged with the consideration of reports submitted by State Parties under article 40 which bind State Parties to submit reports on the measures they have adopted which give effect to the rights recognized in the Covenant and on progress made in the enjoyment of those rights within one year of the entry unto force of the Covenant for the States Parties concerned and thereafter whenever the Human Rights Committee so requests.
The Human Rights Committee is also empowered to consider complaints by a State Party to the Covenant, under Article 41, that another State Party is not fulfilling its obligations under the Covenant. And under the Optional Protocal to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Human Rights Committee can consider complaints from individuals under certain conditions against State Parties for violation of the Covenant.
A quick review of the human rights spelt out in the Covenant would show that if Malaysia ratifies the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, there will numerous complaints of violations of the Covenant which would have to be considered by the Human Rights Committee.
The most outstanding one, because of the recent national and international uproar, will be Article 6(5) of the Covenant, which reads: “Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.”
A host of human rights violations would include the following:
Article 9: Right to liberty and security of person. This article provides that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention; and that anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.
The Malaysian Government’s violation of this Article will flood the Human Rights Committee with work, which is a measure of the magnitude of the violation. Political critics and opposition leaders who are committed to a constitutional, democratic struggle are detained without trial indefinitely – not because they pose a threat to the security of the country, but because they challenge the political base and strength of the ruling parties. This is why opposition leaders like Sdr. Kassim Ahmad, Professor Syed Husin Ali, Sdr. Chian Heng Kai (DAP Member of Parliament for Batu Gajah), Sdr. Chan Kok Kit (DAP National Assistant Treasurer) are detained in Kamunting Detention Camp. Their crime is not that they oppose the country or people; but because they oppose the ruling party politicians.
Article 12: The right to Movement within the territory of a State
It is a disgrace and a violation of the Covenant that Malaysians cannot fully move within his own country. I had been banned from Sabah, and twice refused entry into Sarawak. If Malaysia had signed the Covenant and the Optional Covenant, then the Malaysian Government would be called upon the perform the impossible of justifying why a Malaysian Member of Parliament cannot freely move about in his own country.
Article 10: The right, when deprived of liberty, to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.
This right is violated every day in the police look-ups in the country, where persons arrested are sometimes subject to all sorts of brutalities and violence.