DAP calls for the establishment of a Human Rights Commission in Malaysia to receive and consider complaints about violation of human rights and to make findings

I regret that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Barisan Nasional members who spoke have made it very clear that they would oppose this motion calling for the ratification of the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights 1966.

The reasons that have been given by the Minister if Foreign Affairs, Tunku Rithaudeen, and the five other Barisan Nasional MPs who spoke, however, is most contradictory.

On the one hand, there are those like Tengku Rithaudeen, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who claimed that the human tights contained in the 1966 International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights are already respected in Malaysia, and there is therefore no need to ratify the Covenant.

There are those, especially the Member of Kuala Selangor, Raja Nasron, who and to some extent, the Member of Permatang Pauh, Ariffin Daud, who denounced the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights, as unacceptable for Malaysia. In fact, Raja Nasron went so far as even to suggest that if the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights is ratified, there would be another May 13 riots in the country, and will seriously undermine national unity and peace.

I challenge the Government to give a clear explanation as to why they oppose this motion – is it because the International Covenant is mere duplication of human rights already existing in the country, or because the International Covenant is an evil, subversive document which can have no place in Malaysia society under Barisan Nasional Government.

Barisan Nasional playing communal line

I regret that this motion calling for the ratification of the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights 1966 had been made use of by Barisan Nasional MPs like Raja Nasron and the MP for Langkawi to play the communal line.

The Member of Kuala Selangor is in particular guilty of this. He again spoke through the ratification of the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights succeeds.

The threat of May 13 to silence reason and arguments in the Dewan Rakyat has been used for too long. Ever y time the Opposition presses the people’s issues, and the Barisan Nasional is unable to counter the DAP arguments with better arguments, threats of May 13 is restored to. This happened on Tuesday, when the Attorney-General when questioned about the exercise of his powers as Public Prosecutor, his semi-judicial and discretionary role, and the case of Dato Harun Idris, he warned of another May 13. Yesterday, on the motion of the International Covenant of Political Civl Rights, the Member for Kuala Selangor spoke of another May 13.

Who started May 13?

I want to ask” Who wants to start another May 13? Is it the Attorney-General or the Member for Kuala Selangor?

It is now clear that May 13 riots in 1969 was not caused by the Opposition or even communists, but planned by UMNO leaders to topple Tunku Abdul Rahman, as the former Prime Minister said in his article “As I See It” in the Star some time back.

In the book, South East Asian Affairs 1977, published by Institute of South East Asian Studies, in an article on “UMNO: 30 Years After” by journalist Subky Latiff, the writer (who is close to various UMNO leaders and in particular Dato Harun Idris), wrote:

“The May 13 Incident did not occur spontaneously. It was planned quickly and purposely. The identity of the planner of the incident cannot be stated with accuracy. Whatever it was that happened, the May 13 Incident was a form of coup de tat directed against Tunku Abdul Rahman. The Tunku’s power in fact ended from then onwards. Although he continued to be Prime Minister and President of UMNO, he was no more than a figurehead.”

The DAP had right from the beginning called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into May 13 riots to determine who planned and started the racial clashes and deaths – but this was rejected by the authorities. Blame was put on everybody, except the real culprits. And in order to make the world believe that the May 13 Incidents were created by Opposition Parties, I was detained under the Internal Security Act for 18 months. – a sacrificial victim of the Planners of May 13 riots.

Is this the Barisan Nasional’s respect for human rights?

I said on Tuesday, and I said again, that this Dewan should not allow Members from the Barisan to threaten anyone with May 13 talk. If this May 13 nonsense does not stop, then I will move a motion to ask the House to set up a Commission of Inquiry into the causes of May 13 riots, to ascertain who are the Planners of the May 13 – to end the distortion of history, and the use of distorted history to threaten the House when faced with invincible arguments from the Opposition.

Raja Nasron condemned

I deplore the speech by the Member for Kuala Selangor, which is the most irresponsible kind seeking to present himself as the Savior of Malays when he is not, and when there is no occasion for him to make such irresponsible speeches.

He railed about how he would not permit Malay rights to be destroyed, when in this debate on the ratification of the International Covenant of Political Civil Rights, there is no mention of Malay rights. We are discussing human rights, which is the right of all persons, whether Malays, Chinese or Indians.

When I interrupted him to ask when had the Member for Seremban, Dr. Chen Man Hin, the target of his attack and of the Member for Langkawi too, had referred to Malay rights in Dr. Chen’s seconding speech, Raja Nasron was unable to do so. But that did not prevent him from railing on about championing Malay rights. Raja Nasron must be utterly bankrupt politically to restore to such desperate tactics in the hope of catching big press headlines, and to show what a champion of Malays he is.

This is what Dr. Chen said in his seconding speech, from the Hansard:

“Despite the New Economic Policy, which the Barisan Nasional claim will benefit all Malaysians, irrespective of race, yet the nation wealth is not equitably distributed. The gross per capital income is said to be 200 ringgits, but the income of the average peasant and worker is less than 100 ringgits a month. Malay have-nots continue to be have-nots, while the Malay elite wax rich with juicy contracts and big timer concessions. Economic advancement for the non-Malays have become progressively dimmer”

UMNO-Putras vs Bumiputras

Did Dr. Chen make any denunciation of Malay rights? What Dr. Chen did was to attack the policy of creating Malay’s wealthy class and millionaires at the expense of the Malay poor. Raja Nasron was stung and saw red – not because Malay rights were challenged, not because the rights of the Malay poor were threatened, but because the rights and position of the Malay rich, the Malay millionaires, were questioned. He reacted fierecely and emotionally not because the rights of bumiputras were threatened, but because the rights of the UMNO-putras, of whom he is one, was questioned.

The member for Langkawi, Dato Syed Mahar, said that he would not allow the Malays to be made use of as instrument, “di-peralatkan”. It is the UMNO-putras like the member for Kuala Selangor and Langkawi, who are memperalatkankan, making use, of the Malays for their own class interest.

What I find difficult to understand is why on a motion on human rights, the UMNO-putras would also want to make use of artificial issues to reinforce their class interest. Are they so desperate?

The speech of the Member for Kuala Selangor is most vicious, and is a disgrace to Parliament. He said that DAP harbour dangerous thoughts in bringing this motion. What is he implying. If he is courageous man, a man born of male, why don’t he come out clearly with these “dangerous thoughts” – and I challenge him to repeat outside the House what are these “dangerous thoughts”.

The member for Kuala Selangor accused the Member for Seremban, Dr. Chen Man Hin, of wanting a political system like the People’s Republic of China. This is most mischievous. He is suggesting that Dr. Chen and the DAP want a communist system of government, like the Chinese communist system. Again, I challenge him to be specific, and not to hide behind insinuations, but to state clearly and publicly outside the House that Dr. Chen want to bring about a communist government like that prevailing in the People’s Republic of China.

Members should talk with responsibility, and not indulge in wild allegations, which will only reduce teh dignity of the House.

Chian Heng Kai and Chan Kok Kit

Referring to the detention of two DAP leaders, Dr. Chian Heng Kai DAP Member of Parliament for Batu Gajah and Sdr. Chan Kok Kit, DAP National Deputy Treasurer, the Member for Kuala Selangor said the government did not detain people without evidence.

The history of ISA is a history of detention without proper reasons. The ISA has been used as a political instrument against critics and Opposition leaders, student leaders and trade unionists.

Hamid Tuah was once arrested under the Internal Security Act. What was his offence? Because he led a movement to open up land for the landless – for the landless cannot get land while Ministers and Deputy Minister, Chief Ministers and Mentri-Mentri Besar can get large tracts of land without any problem. Why was youth leader Anwar Ibrahim detained under the ISA? Why was the student leader Ibrahim Ali detained under the ISA? Why were Chian Heng Kai and Chan Kok Kit arrested? Not for any acts, but for what they had said ay public rallies and party meetings, which were all in formity with the laws of the land and the Constitution.

If what they had said in public rallies and party meetings has transgressed the law, then charge them in court. And I can speak here with the full authority of Sdr. Chian Heng Kai and Sdr. Chan Kok Kit. They Challenge the Government to charge them in court for any offence which the Government claim they had committed.

Why detain them under the ISA where the reasons need never be subject to public examination? It had been said that both Sdr. Chian Heng Kai and Sdr. Chan Kok Kit had confessed to involvement with Communist United Front activities. This is an utter lie. Both Sdr. Chian Heng Kai and Sdr. Chan Kok Kit never had anything to do with the communists or the communist united front, because they believe in the DAP political struggle through democratic Constitutional means to bring about political changes.

If Sdr. Chian Heng Kai and Sdr. Chan Kok Kit had been involved with Communist United Front activities, then I call on the Government to give me and the DAP the evidence, and will expel them from the Party for violating Party principles. If the Government cannot do so, the both of them should be released immediately without conditions. On Nov. 2, both of them would have served their full year of detention – for no mistake or crime, just as I did in1969 and in 1970, been detained for 18 months for no crime expect being a victim of political persecution of the ruling party.

Again, why has the Government arrested Sdr. Kassim Ahmad and Professor Syed Husen Ali of PSRM. Is the Government prepared to furnish the reasons for their arrest publicly or change them in court?

Malaysian Malaysia

The Member for Kuala Selangor attacked the DAP’s call for a Malaysian Malaysia. The DAP wants a Malaysian Malaysia because as citizens of this multi-racial country, we firmly believe that any attempt to establish a Malay Malaysia, a Chinese Malaysia or an Indian Malaysia, or an Iban Malaysia or Kadasan Malaysia, will bring the country to disaster. I ask the Member of Kuala Selangor if he is so oppose t Malaysian Malaysia, a Malaysia belonging to all Malaysians, then what type of Malaysia does he want?

The Member for Kuala Selangor pointed to the Kelantan troubles as an example of what could happen if human rights are permitted. This is ridiculous. The trouble of Kelantan is not that human rights are allowed free play, but because the people’s political rights have been denied. The people want general elections, but the UMNO-putras and the PAS-putras are denying the people of Kelantan their political right to decide who should be their government. The DAP is not opposed to the holding public rallies. The crisis in Kelantan is not due to the abuse of political rights of the people. The State Assembly should stand dissolved, hold fresh general elections and let the people of Kelantan vote in a new government and reject corrupt, selfish and greedy State Assembly.

Carter did not praise Malaysia on human rights

The Member for Sungai Siput made play with the assertion that even President Carter had praised Malaysia as a model of human rights for other countries to follow. A desperate man will grasp at any straw.

The Foreign Minister, Tengku Rithaudeen, in answer to my question, said President Carter never made such a statement. Yet, Radio and Television Malaysia news report gave prominent coverage to this blessing by President Carter, which has never made.

The Foreign Minister said that the statement was made by a Minister in the Carter Administration. I am not aware that President Carter has Ministers, apart from religious ministers. The Foreign Minister said the Minister made the remark in the presence of President Carter. He admitted that President Carter did not praise the human rights record of Malaysia, but claimed that “Silence is Consent”. I feel ashame that as a country with self-respect and our own dignity, we should stoop so low as to claim praise from a foreign head of government through the reasoning “Silence is Consent”. Surely, good manners would not permit President Carter to repudiate any statement made by one of his staff in the presence of the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Malaysia.

Why Malaysia is afraid to ratify the Covenant

Tengku Rithaudeen claims that it is not necessary for Malaysia to ratify the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights because the stipulations are already contained in the Malaysian Constitution, Articles 5 – 12. He said that human rights and fundamental liberties are already enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution.

True, the Malaysian Constitution, Article 5 – 12, enshrined fundamental rights – but they are the enshrinment of fundamental rights which are so tattered and curtailed by qualifications as to cease to have real meaning and content.

If Tengku Riithaudeen is right that the principles of the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights are already enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution, then Malaysia should have no qualms about ratifying the International Covenant, which will show our sincerity in accepting the U.N. idea and further enhance our international reputation.

It is clear that the stipulations in the International Covenant are not matched by the provisions in the Malaysian Constitution, for the letter have been so qualified and subject to conditions as cease to constitute fundamental rights any more.

Threat to independence of Judiciary

Tengku Rithaudeen claims that violations of fundamental liberties enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution can be remedied in the Courts through writ of habeas corpus, certiorari, mandamus, and others; and that in Malaysia the principle of Independence of the Judiciary is honoured. The principle of Independence of the Judiciary is now under a great threat with the warning on Oct. 18 by the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed that “the judiciary should not attempt to force its views on the legislature … To do so especially when accompanied by threats may result in a confusion of roles and the eventual destruction of the independence of the judiciary itself.”

Who can destroy the Independence of the Judiciary, but only the Executive with its votes in Parliament?

The Courts do not protect citizens from arbitrary arrest under the Internal Security Act. Tengku Rithaudeen talked about the Advisory Appeal Board, which meets once in six months to review the detention of a person, and which is chaired by a former judge. It is public knowledge that this Board is powerless, just a window-dressing, completely helpless to intervene against unjust and arbitrary detention with trial. Both Sdr. Chian Heng Kai and Sdr. Chank Kok Kit have appeared once before the Board – but what have happened? Nothing.

Tengku Rithaudeen spoke more than once, at the prompting of the Attorney-General yesterday, about the writ of habeas corpus to release persons unlawfully detained. What is the use of this writ of habeas corpus, when persons released are immediately re-arrested inside the court house itself.

Tengku Rithaudeen said the International Covenant is only a guideline, and is not meant for those countries whose laws already provide for these basic rights. I regret the Foreign Minister should mislead this House on this matter. Can he show me any clause or preamble to the International Covenant which stipulates that countries whose laws or constitutions enunciate the same principles need not ratify the Covenant? There is none. When the International Covenant was adopted in the UN General Assembly on 16th December 1966 by 106 votes with no votes against, it was with the intention that every country should ratify or accede to it.

Tengku Rithaudeen said there were no procedural remedies for breaches in the Covenant. This is a misunderstanding of the mode of operation of international human rights movements. The Covenant provides for enforcement and implementation machinery, namely, a Human Rights Committee, with powers to consider complaints against State Parties for violation of human rights.

The weight of international public opinion against such a State for violation of human rights, as publicly named and censured by the Human Rights Committee, will be so great that the State Party concerned will find it difficult to ignore such international censures.

In fact, the reason why Malaysian Government does not want to ratify the International Covenant is because ratification will result in Malaysia being put in the international dock and being censured by the Human Rights Committee for gross violation of political and civil rights of Malaysians.

All the sweet words and vicious distortions cannot hide away this one reason for the failure to ratify the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights.

Rule of Law must be Rule of Just Law

The Minister talks a lot about the Rule of Law. Rule of Law has meaning only if it is the Rule of Just and Good Law, and not the Rule of Unjust and Repressive and Unconscionable Law.

The Government’s rejection of this motion shows clearly the Barisan Nasional Government’s position on human rights. It is black day for human rights in Malaysia. It is a day of shame for Malaysians.

In rejecting this motion, the Barisan Nasional government is telling the world that its human rights record cannot bear international examination.

In that case, let us have a Human Rights Commission in Malaysia which have the power to hear and make findings about complaints of violations of human rights. Is the government prepared to establish such a Human Rights Commission, which will have judicial status?

I do not think it is necessary for me to answer attempts by some speakers, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to represent as if I am asking for unlimited freedoms, and some of the absurd arguments about absolute freedoms. People who make absurd arguments only show that they have an absurd mentality.

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, when winding up the debate on the motion “That this House resolves that the Malaysian government should within a month of the passage of this motion, ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 which was adopted at the General Assembly of the United Nations by 106 votes to none on December 16, 1976” at the Dewan Rakyat on Thursday, 27th Oct. 1977