PRESIDENT’S REPORT FOR THE AGM 2015/2016 [25th AGM]
It has been 28 years since HAKAM’s inception. Since then, HAKAM has been committed to promoting, defending and preserving human rights. In a climate of corruption and abuse of power, the deterioration of human rights continues unabated. HAKAM’s work has thus become more critical.
In October last year, Human Rights Watch produced a report titled “Climate of Fear”. The report details all the measures being taken by the present regime to silence critics including the countless arrests and detentions under the Sedition Act 1948 and the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 and of course the bizarre case of Zunar, a cartoonist facing 9 charges of sedition. We have had 206 investigations for sedition in 2015 alone. The government has indeed been effective in creating a climate of fear.
The last one year has been disastrous for human rights. We have seen the continuing introduction of repressive laws, threats to press freedom, environmental degradation, misuse of enforcement powers, last minute ‘secret’ executions, the suspension of The Edge, closure of The Malaysian Insider and the investigation, arrest and the unlawful detention of journalists including foreign journalists.
We have also seen the signing of the TPPA. HAKAM must be poised to deal with the long term effects of the agreement upon human rights. Furthermore the odious National Security Council bill has been gazetted early this month as the National Security Council Act 2016. It has at the date of this report, not come into force.
In the midst of all this bad news, we have some encouraging news as well. We saw Nisha Ayub, the first transgender to be awarded the US Secretary of State International Women of Courage Award in April this year. I would also like to congratulate our own Exco member Cecil Rajendra for being recognised in an academic paper to be presented at Oxford University as part of a seminar on “Intellectuals and Independent Thought in Malaysia”.
Congratulations also to Bersih 2.0 for being awarded the 2016 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. Unfortunately this was marred by the ban imposed upon Maria Chin Abdullah, the Chair, from travelling to claim the Award.
HAKAM also commends the EAIC for the reports issued on custodial deaths especially that of N. Dharmendran (report released on 28 April 2016) and Syed Mohd Azlan (report released on 30 October 2015). HAKAM’s call for the IPCMC along with many other members of civil society is also urgent. The ‘secret’ execution that took place recently in Taiping should not happen again. HAKAM’s call for the abolishing of the death penalty is also urgent and necessary.
I would like to congratulate all human rights defenders in this country who continue to champion the rights of the downtrodden without fear or favour in a very difficult environment.
HAKAM had a fruitful journey in the last one year. I would like to thank all the members of the Executive Committee and members of HAKAM who have shown dedication and commitment in the last year towards enhancing our role as effective advocates of human rights issues.
The following are activities and programmes for the year in review :
1. HAKAM volunteer meeting
Date : 4 July 2015
HAKAM organized its first round of volunteer meetings at the HAKAM Secretariat. This meeting was fruitful as we had two local law students who volunteered to help us on the NR2D project (reported below) for two months. HAKAM views this as a success because HAKAM seeks to empower young minds to contribute to the cause of human rights.
2. The Nation in Crisis : An Action Plan
Date : 28 July 2015
Venue : Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
HAKAM invited the media to a Press Conference to present an action plan to address the political crisis facing Malaysia. The Demi Rakyat Action Plan was jointly presented by the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (PROHAM) and Negara-Ku. This arose out of the discovery of a massive amount of money channeled into the Prime Minister’s personal account.
3. National Response to Natural Disasters – A Working Framework : Roundtable Discussion
Date : 5 August 2015
Venue: Bar Council Meeting Room
Attended by :
- Daron Tan from the International Disaster Response Network (IDRN)
- Dato Che Moin Umar academician attached to National University of Malaysia
- Colin Nicholas from the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns
- REACH [Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands]
- Global Environmental Centre (GEC)
- Malaysian Integrated Medical Professionals Association (MIMPA)
- Epic Homes
- Bantuan Bencana NGO
- Imam Response and Relief Team (IMARET)
- MENGO [Malaysian Environmental NGOs]
- Yayasan Darul Hijrah
HAKAM invited representatives from civil society organisations as well as the Bar Council and academicians and various organisations who have undertaken relief work or provided aid during emergencies and disasters in Malaysia (especially in the East Coast floods in 2014) to be a participant and collaborate with the other participants in drawing up a Malaysian citizens’ national response to disasters framework. This is to create a response mechanism when disaster strikes so each organization involved in relief work will be able to immediately launch its relief efforts. A report has been compiled by Professor Gurdial Nijar, Deputy President of HAKAM and volunteers from University Malaya on behalf of HAKAM. The report on the framework is complete save for the recommendations to be included as HAKAM is awaiting responses from experts. HAKAM hopes to be able to complete the report in two months to be presented to the government and other stakeholders.
4. HAKAM Fundraising – Dinner with a View
Date : 14 August 2015
Venue : Pietro Restaurante
HAKAM organized a fundraising dinner inviting about 20 guests. The dinner was kindly sponsored by someone who would like to remain anonymous. Dinner was followed by an informal session with Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Sharom and myself which was moderated by Chacko Vadaketh. HAKAM managed to raise RM59,600.00 from this fund raising event. I would like to thank Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Sharom for agreeing to be the highlight of the night with his witty and sharp observations on national issues. HAKAM also records its appreciation to all generous donors and members for making this event a success.
Date : 15 September 2015
Venue : TGV Cinemas Jaya Shopping Centre
HAKAM was delighted to host a “by-invitation-only” private screening of The Blue Mansion, as its movie FUNraiser for 2015! The stellar Singaporean/Malaysian cast included award-winning theatre actresses Tan Kheng Hua, Neo Swee Lin and Pamela Oei as well as Malaysia’s leading actors Patrick Teoh, Louisa Chong, Huzir Sulaiman, Claire Wong and Denise Chang. HAKAM would like to record its appreciation to Glen Goei for allowing HAKAM to screen The Blue Mansion to raise funds. The event was successful as we saw a cinema full of people. We raised approximated RM21,500.00 from the event.
6. Collaboration with Malay Mail in conjunction with Human Rights Day 2015
HAKAM collaborated with The Malay Mail Online in conjunction with Human Rights Day, to present 7 articles on different issues of human rights. Published by The Malay Mail Online, they are as follows :
- Human Rights: Sacrificed at the Altar of National Security? A case of the NSC Bill 2015 by Robyn Choi
- TPPA: Trading Human Rights? by Karina Yong
- Death Penalty : The Inevitability of Error by Abdul Rashid Ismail
- 51% of The Malaysian Bar Are Women, So Why Don’t They Say Something? by Animah Kosai
- Understanding Transgender & Their Rights by Ivy Josiah
- Children : Seen But Not Heard? by Robyn Choi
- A Modest Proposal: A Call For Malaysia to Sign on to the ICESCR by Edmund Bon
7. Launch of the #TakNakDiktator campaign to oppose the National Security Council Bill 2015. Memorandum to Members of Parliament & Senate was handed over.
HAKAM was one of the civil society organization involved in the campaign against the National Security Bill 2015 (now known as the National Security Council Act 2016). It was important to oppose the National Security Council Bill 2015 as it will have grave implications on human rights in Malaysia. The coalition called itself the #TakNakDiktator coalition. The coalition went to Parliament on the day the bill was to be tabled and debated. The coalition met Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dato Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim to persuade him to delay the tabling of the bill to no avail. We also handed memoranda to Members of Parliament to explain the dangers of the bill. When the bill was passed in Parliament, the coalition organized a briefing in Parliament with Senators to persuade them to oppose the bill. The members of the coalition include:
- Amnesty International Malaysia
- BERSIH 2.0
- Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4)
- National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)
- Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (IKRAM)
- Institut Rakyat
- Lawyers for Liberty
- Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Malaysia (PROHAM)
- Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
8. #NetMerdeka Coalition
HAKAM has also been an active member in the recently formed Coalition #NetMerdeka, advocating greater internet freedom and campaigning to stop further amendments to the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998. The Coalition has been active in using technology to create awareness and in advocating internet freedom. These include, Twitter Chats, Google Hang-outs and coordinated publications online.
9. Press Statements were issued as follows:
- 25 July 2015 – On the Suspension of The Edge
- 28 July 2015 – HAKAM, C4, PROHAM, Negara-Ku: Demi Rakyat Action Plan
- 25 September 2015 – On Use of SOSMA and Arrest of 1MDB Critic
- 19 November 2015 – HAKAM Welcomes Move to Abolish Mandatory Death Sentence for Drug Related Offences
- 1 December 2015 – On the IGP questioning lawyer Americk Sidhu
- 8 December 2015 – Malaysia Must Unite to Stop the National Security Council Bill 2015
- 13 February 2016 – On Penang Chief Minister’s statement regarding Penang Forum
- 14 March 2016 – On the Arrest and Detention of Australian Journalists
- 15 March 2016 – On the Closure of The Malaysian Insider
- 18 April 2016 – Dire Need for Institutional Reforms to Uphold the Rule of Law and for Effective Checks and Balances
- 27 April 2016 – HAKAM condemns police action against journalist
- 15 May 2015 – Imminent executions in Singapore and Indonesia must be halted
- 16 May 2016 – Online Freedom and Bill to Amend the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA)
- 17 May 2016 – HAKAM Condemns Action Against Maria Chin Preventing Her From Travelling Abroad
- 6 June 2016 – HAKAM Calls for A Stop to Harassment of Fahmi Reza & Others, and for Respect to Freedom of Expression
10. Setting up of new office premises
HAKAM moved to its own office space at Avenue 8 in January 2016. We have been able to do so thanks to all the support received from generous donors. We have managed to engage a Coordinator for programs as well. HAKAM has also accepted an intern for 3 months.
Slowly but surely, HAKAM is making its presence felt and is building up its resources and infrastructure. With the support of our membership which stands at 228 as of today and I am confident we will continue to grow from strength to strength.
23 June 2016