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MPs must hold their heads in shame if they are unable to have a specific debate on the 2005 Suhakam Annual Report, making it the sixth Suhakam annual report tabled in Parliament without debate
Suhakam is required by law to table an annual report to Parliament to report on how it had discharged its statutory duties to protect and promote human rights in the past 12 months, but in the past five years, Parliament had been negligent and remiss in its parliamentary oversight responsibilities in failing to have any parliamentary debate, attention or notice to the Suhakam reports. This raises grave questions about the human rights sensitivity and commitment both of MPs and the Government.
I spoke to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Parliament yesterday after his briefing to Barisan Nasional MPs on the Ninth Malaysia Plan, urging his agreement to set aside a day in the current meeting of Parliament to debate the Suhakam 2005 Annual Report on the state of human rights in the country in the past 12 months - as well as on the past five Suhakam reports.
The Prime Minister undertook to consider the proposal and I hope that there will be a positive response where Parliament will be able to debate the latest Suhakam Annual Report for the first time in six years.
MPs must hold their heads in shame if they are unable to have a specific debate on the 2005 Suhakam Annual Report, making it the sixth Suhakam annual report tabled in Parliament without debate.
To end the six-year triple injustices to Parliament, Suhakam and human rights caused by the failure of MPs to conduct a special debate since the submission of the first Suhakam annual report for 2000, there should be another extension of the current meeting of Parliament by another day to accommodate the new parliamentary business.
There is a grave omission in the Suhakam 2005 Annual Report which reflects adversely on the government’s commitment to protect and promote human rights.
The Suhakam 2004 Annual Report published as an appendix the Government’s Response to the Suhakam Annual Report 2003 about the government’s human rights failings and breaches, defending or justifying government actions, but conspicuously missing in the Suhakam 2005 Annual Report is the Government’s Response to the Suhakam 2004 Annual Report.
Is the absence of the Government’s Response to the Suhakam 2004 Annual Report on the government’s human rights failings and breaches proof that the government accepted all the Suhakam criticisms in its 2004 report or utter indifference of the government to the Suhakam report six years after the operation of the Human Rights Commission?
Who made the decision that there was no need for the government to submit a Response to the Suhakam Annual Report 2004 – was it by a top government servant or a Cabinet Minister, and was there Cabinet the sanction to ignore the Suhakam 2004 Annual Report altogether? This is not a good example of accountability, transparency, good governance and human rights-sensitivity as pledged by the Abdullah premiership.
The Suhakam 2005 Annual Report highlighted the following issues:
· Detention without trial and the renewal of Suhakam call for review and repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA), to be replaced with legislation dealing specifically with security matters and containing safeguards consistent with international human rights norms.
· The two Dzaiddin Royal Police Commissions to create and regain full public trust and confidence in the police by creating a clean, incorruptible, efficient, professional world-class police service.
· The administration of justice and the right to an expeditious and fair trial.
· Freedom of speech and information – and its emphasis that “Next to political will, freedom of speech and the right to information are essential to the elimination of corrupt practice”.
· Rights of vulnerable groups, viz. orang asli, migrant workers, asylum seekers, persons with disabilities, women and children.
· Freedom of Assembly.
· Freedom of Religion and the M. Moorthy and Article 121(1A) controversies.
· Right to Education.
These and other human rights issues which had dominated the human rights scenario in 2005 should be allowed to take parliamentary centre-stage in a specific debate by MPs on the Suhakam 2005 Annual Report.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman