BERSIH’s Protest Note to SUHAKAM, 9 Nov 2007

9 November 2007
1. Almost a month has lapsed since Suhakam promised to reconsider its decision not to hold a public inquiry into the Batu Buruk incident, and two months since the incident itself on 8 September 2007.

2. On 12 October 2007 when BERSIH submitted its protest note on Suhakam’s earlier decision which we considered an abdication of Suhakam’s responsibility, Commissioner Datuk N Siva Subramaniam assured BERSIH and the public that Suhakam would review its decision in an emergency meeting.
3. We pointed out that Suhakam’s current stand as to why it is not doing a public inquiry on Batu Burok would mean that all the police or any offending authority would have to do is, after committing human rights abuses, is to simply prosecute someone in connection with the incident and that would allow Suhakam to not proceed with any inquiry. This surely cannot be a rational view of the law.
4. We also pointed out that Suhakam’s current position was inconsistent with its own past practice when it conducted a full public inqury into the KESAS Highway gathering in 2000/2001 although many persons were facing prosecution for unlawful assembly.
5. The Batu Buruk incident where two civilians were shot by a plain-clothed policeman is one of the worst cases of human rights abuse in Malaysia’s history.
6. Yet it is shocking that Suhakam is taking such a long time to decide on whether to conduct an inquiry on such an important case.
7. As a supposed independent vanguard of human rights in Malaysia, Suhakam should be the first to come into the defense of victims of abuse, or at least take the initiative to ensure that the truth is unveiled through a public inquiry.
8. Suhakam is a public institution funded by taxpayers’ money with a budget in the tune of RM 9 million, 18 Commissioners with a monthly allowance commensurate with that of a Member of Parliament, and more than 70 staff. What are all these Commissioners doing? We would like to see Suhakam Commissioners demonstrating a more public commitment in respect of human rights protection, and one of the most effective means currently within the capacity of Suhakam is the power to conduct public inquiries.
9. Commissioner Dato’ Siva Subramaniam also told the public a month ago when BERSIH delivered its protest note that Suhakam has been consistent in its stand that individuals have the right to freedom of assembly.
10. But his recent views on the BERSIH gathering on 10 November 2007, which is tomorrow, which places emphasis on the issuance of a permit by the police in order to exercise the right of peaceful assembly, are contrary to international human rights standards and also contrary to what has been repeatedly stated by Suhakam in the past. His views raise questions on the credibility of Suhakam.
11. We reiterate our call to Suhakam to commence with a sense of urgency and complete a public inquiry into the Batu Burok tragedy where freedom of peaceful public assembly was completely violated and where numerous other human rights violations took place including arrests, assaults on person and the shooting of two civilians causing them serious injury by a policeman without a uniform.