'Powerless to act' – Suhakam under fire

Yoges Palaniappan (Malaysiakini)
Oct 10, 07 –The decision by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) not to conduct a public inquiry into last month’s Batu Buruk incident has drawn flak from various quarters.
Yesterday, Suhakam commissioner N Siva Subramaniam said the commission was powerless to act since there is an ongoing court case regarding the riot, which left numerous people injured.
Previously, a Suhakam preliminary fact-finding team concluded that there was evidence of police brutality and human rights violations during the incident.
In a statement today, human rights organisation Suaram said it “strongly opposed” Siva’s statement in relation to the legal restriction that was cited.
“The subject matter of the ongoing court proceeding, as referred to by Suhakam, is not identical to the inquiry which it was supposed to conduct,” it said.
Siva was referring to Section 12(2) of the Human Rights Commission Act 1999 which forbids the commission from investigating a matter when the related matter is being heard in the court.
Suaram argued that the ongoing court proceeding involved Khair Muzakkir Ali, 22, who failed to produce his identity card, while the complaint lodged with Suhakam was on the excessive violence used by the police.
“If Suhakam’s current interpretation of the Act is to be adopted, we fear that this will encourage the police to resort to prosecution of victim of police brutality for various obscure reasons in order to subvert a public inquiry,” said the organisation.
This is what the rest had to say:
Coalition for clean and fair elections, BERSIH
Bersih is outraged over Suhakam’s hands-off attitude over the Batu Buruk incident. Suhakam’s refusal to conduct a public inquiry amounts to abating the violent suppression of the right to assemble and abdicating its responsibility as the guardian of human rights in Malaysia.
It is shocking and highly disappointing that Suhakam chose to interpret the Suhakam Act in such a narrow perspective despite its preliminary fact-finding team concluding that there was evidence of police brutality and human rights violations during the incident.
We also find it unacceptable that Suhakam has bought into the government’s propaganda that the Batu Buruk incident was a riot and the commission’s justification for the use of water cannons and tear gas.
Bersih therefore demands that Suhakam immediately reviews and corrects this appalling decision and establish a public inquiry to investigate the incident in a thorough, impartial and transparent manner.
PAS Youth chief, Salahuddin Ayub
This is a weird and shocking decision. I have my doubts, that Suhakam has been pressured by certain parties to take this stand.
However, PAS will continue our fight to tell the truth to the public trough other avenues like Amnesty International and international human rights organisations.
We are also having a meeting with Bersih soon, and we will decide on our next course of action.
Opposition leader, Lim Kit Siang
Suhakam is making a narrow interpretation (of Article 12(2)) to avoid having a full public inquiry into the riot.
I think the commission should be able to distinguish the provisions in the law so that we can go on with the investigation.
I hope that Suhakam, by conducting this inquiry, will prove that it is not just a toothless paper tiger.