Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the Penang DAP State Working Committee meeting held at Penang DAP Hqrs at Lorong Kinta, Penang on Wednesday,12th February 1992 at 8.30 p.m.
Malaysia’s poor human rights image is not a ‘Public Relations’ problem but a question of the Government improving its human rights record
It has been reported that the Cabinet had engaged an international media consultant expert to advise it as how to deal with Malaysia’s adverse international image over the issue of human rights and democratic freedoms.
The Cabinet Ministers have got the wrong end of the stick and they cannot be more wrong in thinking that Malaysia’s poor international image on human rights and democratic freedom is because of ‘poor international public relations’.
Malaysia’s poor human rights image is not a ‘Public Relations’ problem but a question of the Government improving its record on human rights and democratic freedoms.
If the Cabinet decides to engage an international media consultant to launch an ‘international public relations’ exercise to counter its adverse international image on human rights, the only beneficiary will be this firm of media consultant, but definitely not human rights or democratic freedoms in Malaysia.
It is most unlikely that there is going to be any positive results from such an ‘international public relations’ offensive so long as there is no improvement in the situation of human rights and democratic freedoms in Malaysia.
In fact, if the Cabinet is concerned about the adverse international human rights image of Malaysia, there is no need for any international media consultant expert, as all that the Government needs to do is to uphold and promote human rights and democratic freedoms in Malaysia.
The improvement of the Malaysian Government’s record on human rights and democratic freedoms will be millions times more effective than engaging an international media consultant expert to spend taxpayers’ money to advertise Malaysia in electronic and printed media all over the world.
The Malaysian Government has been its own worst salesman in trying to project Malaysia’s international image in the world community.
In the past 15 months since the recent general elections, instead of improving on its record of human rights and democratic freedoms in Malaysia, the Barisan Nasional Government had done the opposite.
The Malaysian Government has continued to use the Internal Security Act to detain political opponents and critics without having to present a case against them as in a trial in an open court, as in the detention of the Sabah Foundation Chairman, Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan and the other five Sabahans. The Government has repeatedly accused Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan and the other five Sabahans of involvement in a plot to take Sabah out of Malaysia, but it has not been able to produce any iota of evidence or issue a White Paoer on the plot up to now.
The Malaysian Government has also used the Printing Presses and Publications Act to stifle freedom of the press, as in the recent ban on Mingguan Waktu as well as the ban on the public circulation and sale of the Rocket and the Harakah. For 25 years, Malaysia was democratic enough to allow the Rocket the press freedom to explain to the people the principles, policies, stands, analysis and perspectives of the DAP which commands the support of over a million voters in the last general elections. But today, the Barisan Nasional Government had become even more undemocratic and intolerant of the limited press freedoms still available for 25 years.
Last week, the Federal Government invoked Emergency powers to detain Anderson Mutang Urud of Sarawak Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance for his involvement in anti-logging and anti-deforestation activities in Sarawak. These emergency powers are akin to the Internal Security Act which allows the government to detain a person indefinitely without having to produce him in a court of law.
The detention of Anderson under the Emergency Ordinance highlights the important question as to why the Barisan Nasional Government has refused to revoke the four Proclamations of Emergency and all Emergency Ordinances and powers, as all these four Emergency proclamations had outlived their original purpose. The first Emergency Proclamation was made 28 years ago to deal with the Indonesia Confrontation and the last one 15 years ago to deal with the Kelantan political crisis.
The Malaysian Government’s international image had not been helped by its threat to destroy the independence of the lawyers which is an important pillar of the principle of the Rule of Law and the Independent of the Judiciary as in the various suggestion to make the Attorney-General or the Minister of Justice the head of the Bar Council.
Externally, Malaysia has also failed to live up to its international commitments on human rights. For instance, the 1989 Kuala Lumpur Declaration of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) called on all Commonwealth countries to ratify the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, 1966, but this has not been complied by Malaysia although it was the host country.
DAP calls on the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to improve Malaysia’s international image by abandoning its increasingly undemocratic policies and actions, and to restore in Malaysia the freedom of the press, fundamental individual liberties as the freedom of the person, the independence of the judiciary and a clean and honest electoral process, as well as to revoke the four Proclamations of Emergency.
If the Cabinet is prepared to take these steps, then it would have no problem about Malaysia’s international image whether on human rights or democratic freedoms.