PRESIDENT’S REPORT FOR 2014/2015 – Ambiga Sreenevasan

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 PRESIDENT’S REPORT FOR THE AGM 2014/2015 [24th AGM]

President

HAKAM was pioneered, amongst others, by our own father of independence  Tunku Abdul Rahman, former Prime Minister Tun Hussein Onn and an  illustrious member of the Bar, Raja Aziz Addruse. What drove them to set up  HAKAM is set out in the declaration that was signed by them on 10 December  1988. It is worth reproducing a part of that declaration here.

“Whereas by Proclamation of Independence dated the 31st day of August,  1957 this  nation was proclaimed a sovereign democratic and independent  nation founded  upon the principle of liberty and justice ever seeking the  welfare and happiness of  its people and the maintenance of a just peace  among all nations.

“Whereas this nation, upon becoming a member of the United Nations Organisation, subscribed to the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Whereas there has been a constant erosion of these principles.

“We hereby declare that there is a need to promote, preserve and defend these principles and hereby propose that there be established a national organization for that purpose.”

In the last one year, Malaysia has seen a continuing deterioration of human rights. We have amongst other things, seen the introduction of new and oppressive laws and continued abuse of powers. HAKAM is therefore as relevant today as it was when it was first established. This is a sad testament to the state of human rights here.

I would like to thank all members of the Executive Committee and members of HAKAM who have shown dedication and commitment in the last year towards enhancing our role as advocates of human rights issues. HAKAM has had a wonderful one year with several new initiatives and continuing programmes.

We are also pleased to inform members that the online registration with migration of information with ROS has been finalised.

The following are activities and programmes for the year end 2014/2015:-

1. A forum on Death Penalty was held on 8-12 December 2014,in collaboration with the Bar Council, in celebration of Human Rights Day.

Speakers:

  • Abdul Rashid Ismail, Immediate Past President, HAKAM,
  • Edmund Bon and Joshua Tay, human rights lawyers,
  • Amer Hamzah Arshad of Messrs Nizam, Amer and Sharizad, and
  • Gwen Lee Chee Yeng, Campaigner, Amnesty International Malaysia.

The forum discussed issues surrounding the mandatory death penalty, relevant international laws, and constitutional considerations, how capital punishment is being used in Malaysia, death penalty practices around the world and efforts to abolish the mandatory death penalty.

2. A forum on Freedom of Expression was held on 11 December 2014,in collaboration with the Bar Council, in celebration of Human Rights Day.

The forum was moderated by Jahabar Sadiq, TMI Editor in Chief. The panellists were:

  • Datuk Nur Jazlan bin Mohamad, Member of Parliament for Pulai,
  • Jo Kukathas, Artistic Director of Instant Café Theatre Company,
  • Adam Adli, student activist,
  • Eddin Khoo, Founder of Pusaka, and
  • myself as the President of HAKAM.

The forum was a platform to discuss the relevance of the Sedition Act 1948 and the sedition crackdown that was plaguing the country. The forum discussed the various views supporting the maintenance of the act and also explored why the act is no longer relevant.

3. A HAKAM workshop meeting was held on 2 February 2015

The workshop/meeting was initiated and organised by the HAKAM Executive Committee (EXCO) with the intention of reflecting on the past and present activities, achievements, and weaknesses of HAKAM. Based on these findings, the members then clarified and affirmed the identity, strategic focus; activities and delegation of immediate tasks for HAKAM as of 2015.

The sessions also helped formulate appropriate recommendations to address several programme and institutional weaknesses and concerns of HAKAM as a movement working towards human rights protection in Malaysia. The participants consisted of 5 (five) Executive Committee members of HAKAM and 2 volunteers. The following were the relevant findings;

   i)  Identity & Role

  • Identity & “Branding” – HAKAM is committed to the advocacy and propagation of human rights through policy change, awareness building, education and undertaking issues/cases where human rights violations have been committed.

   ii) Strategic Thematic Focus

  • “Assessing National Responses to Human Right Challenges”

   iii)  Programmes

  • Police: Governance in the Public Interests
  • Human Rights & Religion
  • Environmental Protection – National Response to Natural Disasters
  • Capital Punishment, Towards Abolition – Continuing from 2013/2014

  iv) Criteria for selection of programmes

  • Should be current & relevant
  • Must be issues that are not addressed by the other NGOs unless truly pressing
  • Can HAKAM add value to it?
  • Does HAKAM have the resources & capacity to handle the programme?

4. Meet & Greet Tea Party on 8 April 2015

Venue: Royal Lake Club, Kuala Lumpur

Members and Supporters of HAKAM attended the informal gathering. Final year law undergraduates from University Malaya also joined the tea party. The total turnout for the tea party was 42 people. The aim of the get together was to meet with existing members and also to create interest in potential members in the activities of HAKAM.

5. Submission of proposals

HAKAM had submitted 2 proposals to the government for funding:

i)  to push the agenda of abolishing the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia in line with international human rights standards.

ii) to form a national response to effective disaster management in light of the massive flooding at the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015. HAKAM recognises that civil society organisations faced tremendous difficulties in responding effectively to national disasters that occur in Malaysia. HAKAM is therefore committed to bringing together civil society organisations for a discussion on how NGOs can respond more effectively to a disaster and provide support to existing government agencies for this purpose.

6.  Statement

HAKAM had also issued a statement on 2 May 2015 on the issue of arbitrary arrests and abuse of remand process when the police had made arrests after the Anti-GST walk on 1 May 2015.

7. A Forum, “Human Rights & Religion: Are the Two Compatible?”was held on 23 May 2015, at the Faculty of Law University of Malaya in collaboration with the Human Rights Research Group Faculty of Law University Malaya.

Panel:

  • Emeritus Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi, Prof Emeritus MARA Uni of Technology (panellist),
  • Dr. Dian Diana, Lecturer of Law, University Malaya (panellist),
  • Dato Sri Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, Past President of HAKAM & Lawyer (commentator), and
  • Philip Koh, Co-editor of Sheridan & Groves’ The Constitution of Malaya (5th Edition) & Lawyer (commentator).

The forum had over 200 participants and the majority of them were from the younger generation pursuing their tertiary education. The forum was an apt platform to discuss the many pressing religious issues in relation to human rights.

8. A Forum, “Rogue Cops: Workable Solutions – Police Accountability in Malaysia” was held on 30 May 2015, at the Bar Council Auditorium. The forum was organised in collaboration with the Bar Council Task Force on IPCMC .

The forum was moderated by Firdaus Husni, Member of the Bar, also a member of the Bar Council Task Force on IPCMC. The panelists were:

  • Tan Sri Zaman Khan, Former Director General of Prisons, Malaysia; former police commissioner / Federal CID Chief,
  • Leong May Chan, Commissioner, Enforcement Agencies Integrity Commission (EAIC),
  • Datuk Kuthubul Zaman, Co-Chairperson, Bar Council Task Force on IPCMC,
  • Datuk Dr. Denison Jeyasooria, Secretary General, Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (PROHAM),
  • Shamini Darshni, Executive Director, Amnesty International Malaysia, and
  • Dato’ Sri  Sanjeevan R., Chairman of Malaysian Crime Watch Task Force (MyWatch).

The forum was an idea mooted by the Executive Committee in conjunction with the tenth year since the release of the report by the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police 2005.

One of the major recommendations put forth by the 2005 report was the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). However, the government opted to set up the EAIC instead. The EAIC (Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission) is a watered down version of the IPCMC and it is questionable if it has been effective in policing the police.

9. Asian Regional Congress on Death Penalty

HAKAM Past President Abdul Rashid Ismail delivered a paper on 12 June 2015 at the Asian Regional Congress on the Death Penalty in Kuala Lumpur in a roundtable discussion titled “The Elements of Unfair Trial” as part of HAKAM’s advocacy work towards the abolishment of the death penalty. The Asian Regional Congress was organised by the leading French speaking organisation Together against Death Penalty and ADPAN, Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network as co-organisers. This event is organised in partnership with SUHAKAM and the Bar Council and was supported by the Delegation of the European Union to Malaysia and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Australian Government.

Some of HAKAM’s Executive Committee members and members were also present at the Congress.

10. Website & Social Media

HAKAM has also started with a wider reach to Malaysians through social media – with Facebook and our website at www.hakam.org.my and twitter. I would like to thank all those involved on a volunteer basis in getting the website going, namely Miss Justine Chew, Mr Lim Wei Jiet, and Miss Quah Su Enn.

11. Memorandum to SUHAKAM: Discovery of Mass Graves in Malaysia – Human Trafficking Death Camps

HAKAM lodged a formal complaint with SUHAKAM on 17 June 2015 in respect of the circumstances surrounding the disclosure of unexplained deaths through the discovery of 139 mass graves at the Malaysian Thai-borders, the existence of transit camps and the recent news of dumped bodies of foreign nationals in Penang. HAKAM calls on SUHAKAM to hold a broad based nationwide public inquiry to look into the deaths of those whose remains were uncovered (or are pending discovery) in Wang Kelian, Lubuk Sireh and Penang and elsewhere in Malaysia which arose from human trafficking, the reports of human trafficking which had been lodged with the police but do not appear to have been acted on and the pattern and particularities of human trafficking in Malaysia. It is to be noted that Bar Council also lodged a complaint with SUHAKAM on the said subject matter on the same date.

12. Volunteers & Donors

On behalf of the EXCO, I would like to thank all volunteers and donors who have generously contributed their time, resources and money to HAKAM’s activities. A special mention goes to Ms Margaret Yeo for sponsoring a coordinator to HAKAM for 3 months.

It is anticipated that there will be more challenges facing Malaysia in terms of human rights abuses in the future, judging by the trend in the past 3 years. HAKAM is well placed to unite with other civil society organisations to face these challenges together. There is much work to be done and the support of members is vital.

Thank you.

Ambiga Sreenevasan
President
HAKAM

 

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