Call for redefinition of human rights should not be used as an excuse to justify violation of human rights in Malaysia


Speech by the Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang when launching the Full Liberalisation campaign in Selangor at a dinner in Puchong on Sunday, 11th December, 1994 at 8 pm

Call for redefinition of human rights should not be used as an excuse to justify violation of human rights in Malaysia

Recently, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed opened an international conference in Malaysia on ‘Rethinking Human Rights’ where he called for a redefinition of human rights.

There is full justification for criticism against the human rights record of the West in particular in its hypocrisy and double-standards in its selective application of the standards of human rights for different countries and situations.

This is why the criticisms and attacks against such hypocrisy and double-standards against the human rights records of the West, which was the common theme of the speeches and papers presented at the international conference, could find support among thinking Malaysians.

However, thinking Malaysians are also very concerned about the hidden or unconscious agenda of such international conferences.

Any call for redefinition of human rights should not and must not be used as an excuse to justify the violation of human rights in Malaysia.

The recent international conference on rethinking human rights held in Malaysia would have more credibility and impact if it had not only exposed the hypocrisy and double-standards of the West on human rights, but also exposed the hypocrisy and double-standards of leaders in developing countries who demand for greater democracy in international relations but refused to introduce democratisation in their own countries.

It was precisely because the recent international conference failed to distance itself from the abuses and violations of human rights in the developing countries that it has given the impression that it has a hidden or unconscious agenda to serve as an excuse to justify the dismal human rights records in developing countries including Malaysia especially with regard to civil and political rights.

Such international conferences calling for rethinking human rights focusing on the double-standards and hypocrisy of the West on human rights without giving equal emphasis to the hypocrisy and double-standards of developing countries will only encourage undemocratic and authoritarian regimes in the South to perpetuate and even aggravate their abuses and violations of the human rights of their own citizens.

In Malaysia for instance, there are a whole arsenal of undemocratic laws which are a blot on the human rights record of Malaysia, like the detention-without-trial laws of the Internal Security Act, the clamp on press freedom of the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the denial of freedom of information of the Official Secrets Act and the clasp on free assembly and, public rallies of the Police Act.

What Dr. Mahathir should do is to initiate a meaningful process of democratisation in Malaysia while standing up in international forums to demand that the West should introduce and -respect democratisation in the international arena.

Similarly, international conferences calling for rethinking human rights would have more credibility and support if they make it very clear that such rethinking involves not only the West practicing human rights without double-standards hut also the developing countries ending their human rights abuses and violations.

Malaysia’s voice in the international arena would be more credible and forceful if we ourselves is recognised in the international community as a nation with an exemplary record on human rights.

It is for this reason that human rights and democratisation feature prominently in the DAP’s call for Full Liberalisation.

In fact, all Malaysians should make human rights and democratisation among the major issues in the next general elect ions, and to give full support to the following ten-point demand on human rights and democracy:

(1) Restore elected local governments;

(2) Create a truly independent Election Commission;

(3) ensure that Senators are elected and not appointed;

(4) Reform Parliament to make it the highest legislative and political forum in the country;

(5) Appoint an ombudsman to protect the public interest;

(6) Restore press freedom over radio, television and newspapers;

(7) Repeal all restrictive laws like the Official Secrets Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the
Police Act, the Universities and University Colleges Act, etc;

(8) Repeal the Internal Security Act;

(9) Establish a Human Rights Commission in Malaysia;

(10) Ratify international covenants and UN Conventions on Human Rights.