Press Conference Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the launching of the Chinese edition of ‘Human Rights in Malaysia’ book at DAP Petaling Jaya headquarters on Thursday, April 10, 1986 at 11.30 a.m.
DAP suggest that Parliament should enact a law to set up a Human Rights Commission which will make regular reports to Parliament on human rights situation in Malaysia
In launching the Chinese edition of the book, ‘Human Rights in Malaysia’, which is a collection of papers presented at the first DAP Human Rights Convention in Kuala Lumpur in November, 1985, I must thank the publication committee headed by DAP National Publicity Secretary, Sdr. Liew Ah Kim, for the successful conclusion of its work.
‘Human Rights in Malaysia’ is the first book on human rights in Malaysia, and we hope that its publication will stimulate greater public interest about the state and importance of human rights in our country. This is a book which every Malaysian who is concerned about human rights in Malaysia must read.
Human rights is not a luxury for Malaysia, but a pre-condition of democracy and the rule of law. As long as human rights are respected, democracy is secure and the danger of dictatorship is more remote. The first step towards authoritarian and dictatorial rule is the gradual suppression of fundamental liberties.
Many nations and peoples in history had not been vigilant about their fundamental rights and liberties, and allowed them to be slowly nibbled and eroded away, until they found themselves in the darkness of dictatorial rule – when it is too late to preserve their rights, or they had to pay a very heavy price to regain their basic freedoms.
Malaysians must not make the same mistake, of not fighting erosion of their fundamental liberties when the price and cost is not as high as when they had lost all their liberties and wanted to restore their rights.
I recommend in particular the paper on Freedom of Religion by Rev. Dr. Paul Tan, who vividly described the erosions experienced by the non-Muslim faiths in the exercise of their constitutional rights of freedom of worship. This article is particularly pertinent to Malaysia at a time when there is growing call for the establishment of an Islamic State, in utter disregard of the multi-religious and secular basis of Malaysian nation.
Malaysia has a long list of human rights in the Malaysian Constitution, and we can boast to the whole world that our Constitution recognises human rights. But these Constitutional guarantees have no real meaning, for they are limited a whole host of laws which take away the human rights enshrined in the Constitution.
The task and challenge of Malaysians is to give real meaning and substance to the constitutional guarantees of fundamental rights and human liberties. If Malaysians are not prepared to stand up against all forms of violations of our human rights, nobody else would.
Human rights, and its real meaning, must be made a compulsory subject for all students in schools and universities. This will cultivate and nurture in our young generation a greater appreciation of human rights.
I also propose that Parliament should enact a law to establish a Human Rights Commission, which would report annually to Parliament on the state of human rights in Malaysia, and whether we had fallen short of our Constitutional guarantees on fundamental liberties and individual freedoms. The Commission should be entitled to receive complaints from the Malaysian public and to conduct open inquiries. Proposed legislation which impinges on human rights and fundamental rights should be referred to the Human Rights Commission before presentation in Parliament.
The Human Rights Commission should issue a report for guidance to MPs on every Bill on how it would affect human rights. MPs who want to go ahead to support legislation despite such report cannot subsequently claim that they were not aware of its infringement of our Constitutional guarantees.