Lawyers challenge Singapore attempt to use ‘fake news’ law over prison killings claim

From Free Malaysia Today

Lawyers for Liberty adviser N Surendran, flanked by Gurdial Singh Nijar and LFL director Melissa Sasidaran, talking to reporters. Pic from FMT.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) is seeking to declare as illegal an order issued by Singapore’s home minister, under its anti-fake news law, over claims by the rights group on brutal extra-legal execution methods carried out at the Changi Prison.

In a suit filed at the High Court registry today, LFL is also seeking a court pronouncement that the minister, or anyone acting under his authority, could not act to enforce any provision of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma).

“A correction direction issued by Singapore under Pofma is illegal, oppressive and an attempt to silence Malaysian citizens from exercising their right to free speech in Malaysia,” they said.

Apart from LFL, the other plaintiffs are its adviser, N Surendran, and director Melissa Sasidaran.

Minister K Shanmugam is named as the defendant.

The swift action came about after LFL claimed it had received evidence of such methods by prison guards in the event the hanging procedure fails during execution.

Surendran, who is also a lawyer, alleged that if the rope broke during a hanging, a prison officer would pull the rope that was around the neck of the prisoner towards him.

“Meanwhile, another prison officer will apply pressure by pulling the body in the opposite direction.” he had said.

Saying the details were shared by a former executioner at Changi Prison, Surendran said prison guards would kick the convict’s back “with great force in order to break it”, while ensuring there would be no tell-tale marks in case there was an autopsy.

Singapore said the claims were “untrue, baseless and preposterous allegations”, adding that all judicial executions in the state were carried out in strict compliance with the law.

It also instructed the Pofma office to issue a “correction direction” against LFL’s statement on its website.

Meanwhile, lawyer Gurdial Singh Nijar said this was an unusual action against Singapore as the penalty for violating Pofma carried a jail term.

“They can issue a warrant of arrest against Surendran and Melissa to face charges there,” he said.

Gurdial, who is taking up the case with Ambiga Sreenevasan, said the minister could rely on sovereign immunity in not responding to the suit but, at the same time, he had encroached into fundamental rights of Malaysian citizens.

“You cannot extend your laws against the citizens of another nation,” Gurdial said, adding that he hoped the minister would contest the action in the Malaysian court.

Meanwhile, Ambiga said it was imperative for the plaintiffs to file this action against the minister as the new Malaysian government has repealed its Anti-Fake News Act.

Meanwhile, in an affidavit in support of the action, the plaintiffs said LFL’s statement issued on Jan 16 was in the public interest as there were many Malaysians facing the death penalty in Singapore.

They said the minister issued an order to do a correction and failure to do so was an offence under Pofma, which carried a fine of up to S$20,000 or a maximum jail sentence of 12 months for individuals.

They said LFL had issued a press statement three days ago dismissing the minister’s stand.

Institutional Reform Committee (IRC) Report: Why the Secrecy? HAKAM Forum dated 18 January 2020

“IRC Report: Why the Secrecy?” was the first HAKAM forum of 2020, held on 18 January 2020 at the KL and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall. The well-attended forum started at 10:00 am and was led by a panel of distinguished guests, who all had been involved and well-informed of the IRC process; Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (IRC member and former President of HAKAM), Ms. Siti Kasim (Maju), and Mr. Sevan Doraisamy (Suaram) and the panel was moderated by Dato’ Dr. Gurdial Singh Nijar (HAKAM President). The presentations of the forum speakers were followed by a Q&A session, and the forum ended at 12:00 pm.

In October last year, prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the confidential report by the IRC and its seven recommendations that have been passed to the quasi-official Council of Eminent Persons can only be made public once all Pakatan Harapan (PH) component parties agree to it.

Key points from the forum on the issue of the release of the IRC Report to the public included:

  • Dato’ Ambiga suggested a pilot pilot project by “releasing just one set of recommendations [by IRC] and see whether the government falls down the next day.”
  • Dato’ Ambiga said she does not know the real reason why PH did not want it to be released but she would “charitably” assume that it is because of public and voters’ perception towards the already much-criticised administration.
  • By withholding the report, the government has denied the public and their own supporters the opportunity to be involved in making the country a better place, something that was promised by PH when they rolled out their election manifesto before 2018 election.
  • Siti Kasim pointed out that transparency is the cornerstone of good governance, hence the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government should make public the Institutional Reforms Committee (IRC) report.
  • Sevan suggested that all CSO and NGOs who have contributed to the making of the report, can release their own recommendations to the IRC, which in effect is a major part of what the IRC has referred to in its process, and this way the public can have access to the institutional problems pointed out and recommended reforms.
  • Dato’ Dr. Gurdial mentioned that HAKAM has been following up the release of the Report with the PM, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and will continue to do so until the people can know the content of the report.

Gallery:

HAKAM wishes to thank everyone who came to the forum and the media for covering the event. See you all next time!

HAKAM Forum Media Coverage:

The Malay Mail Online

Malaysiakini

Malaysiakini

The Malaysian Insight

Sinar Harian

 

Institutional Reform Committee (IRC) Report: Why the Secrecy?

Institutional Reform Committee (IRC) Report: Why the Secrecy?

The Institutional Reform Committee (IRC) finalised their report in June 2018, with seven recommendations for revamping the structure of judiciary appointments; limiting the concentration of executive power on a single individual; abolition of oppressive legislation, namely the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012; reform in enforcement and government agencies; parliamentary reforms; and vetting processes for key public appointments with the aim of achieving a corruption-free society, according to IRC member and former HAKAM President, Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasaan.

The IRC, which falls under the Council of Eminent Persons, comprises retired Court of Appeal judges Datuk KC Vohrah, Mah, Ambiga, National Patriots Association president Datuk Mohamed Arshad Raji, and constitutional law expert Prof Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi.

The report then was submitted to the Council of Eminent Persons. However, the report has not yer been released to the public. You can read further on the secrecy surrounding the report and why it is important for the public to know the findings of the IRC in the piece written by HAKAM President, Dato’ Dr. Gurdial Singh Nijar. The importance of the findings has prompted HAKAM to hold a forum discussion on the secrecy of the IRC report, with eminent speakers to discuss aspects of the IRC, the reasons given for keeping the findings and recommendations from the public, and how to push for reform in Malaysia.

The speakers on the forum include, lawyer, activist and Founder of Malaysians for Justice and Unity (MAJU), Ms. Siti Kasim, former HAKAM President and member of IRC, Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasaan, and Executive Director of SUARAM, Sevan Doraisamy. The session will be moderated by HAKAM President, Dato’ Dr. Gurdial Singh Nijar.

You can get more details about the forum here: IRC Why the Secrecy Forum 18 Jan

As seats are limited please RSVP via the following link: https://forms.gle/DbLcid6yBnUQAgTg8  OR email us at info@hakam.org.my to register.

 

Agenda

Time

 

Activity
 9:30 am Registration
10:00 am Opening Remarks
10:15 am 15-Minute Presentation by Panel Members on the Topic
11:00 am Q&A session
12:45 pm Closing Remarks
1:00 pm End of the Forum Discussion

Bersih 2.0 chief backs Ambiga for EC spot, but says ‘many’ suited for the role

Source: Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 will propose several candidates including Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan for Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s consideration to be the new Electoral Commission (EC) Chairman.

Chairman Shahrul Aman Mohd Saar agreed with the suggestion of Ambiga, but stressed that there were many who would do as well in the role.

“Well she can (carry the responsibility), I think definitely, I am sure the media and Malaysian people also thinks the same.

“But having said that, it is not just one person, there any many persons out there,” he said. Read more

Institutional Reforms Committee submits seven immediate proposals

Source: The Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR 19/06/2018. Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan with Dato’ Mah Weng Kwai leaves after meeting with councils of elders at Ilham Tower in Kuala Lumpur.
MALAYMAIL/Azneal Ishak.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 — The Institutional Reforms Committee (IRC) has submitted seven recommendations for immediate institutional reform to the Council of Eminent Persons.

However, the IRC did not disclose the nature of the recommendations submitted to the Council as the final report, including the total sum of recommendations presented, would only be known on July 15.

National Human Rights Society (Hakam) president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said the recommendations submitted to the Council in the final report next month will be separated into three categories — immediate, mid-term and long-term.

“It is not a lot of time, but we have key recommendations which we will put forward that are going to make a difference in the country.

“Our priority agenda remains the same, that is zero tolerance for corruption and appointing the right people to key positions,” Ambiga told reporters at Ilham Tower here after meeting the Council. Read more

Make it so 1MDB never happens again, says Ambiga

Source: The Malaysian Insight

Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan is one of the committee members of the Institutional Reforms Committee comprising legal experts as well as retired judges. — Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali

THE Institutional Reform Committee’s job is to initiate reforms so that something like 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) never happens again, said IRC member Ambiga Sreenevasan.

Ambiga said the committee’s task was not to investigate 1MDB, but to ensure reforms were made in institutions and agencies.

The IRC gave seven immediate recommendations to the Council of Eminent Persons, which it met today.

Ambiga said the recommendations prioritised combating corruption.

“We are not looking at the 1MDB case per se. We are looking at institutional reforms of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, and other agencies like the police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

“We are looking at all that because we don’t ever want to have another 1MDB in this country,” she told reporters at the Ilham Tower after meeting the council.

“The biggest issue is corruption, without a doubt, and appointing the right people to these institutions. That’s the priority,” said Ambiga, who is also the National Human Rights Society’s chairman. Read more

Ambiga, Shad Saleem members of newly-formed Institutional Reforms Committee

Source: The Malay Mail

Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan is one of the committee members of the Institutional Reforms Committee comprising legal experts as well as retired judges. — Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali

KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 ― The Council of Eminent Persons advising the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government today announced the formation of an Institutional Reforms Committee comprising legal experts as well as retired judges.

The committee members are National Human Rights Society president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, Emeritus Professor Datuk Shad Saleem Faruqi, retired Court of Appeal judge Datuk KC Vohrah, National Patriots Association president Brigadier-General (Rtd) Datuk Mohamed Arshad Raji and former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mah Weng Kwai who is also a member of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia.

“Economics reform on its own cannot bring the desired change unless accompanied by institutional reforms. Towards this end, a committee on Institutional Reforms has been formed..” the council said a statement.

The findings and recommendations of the new committee will be presented to the council before it is then shown to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Read more

Government forms Committee on Institutional Reforms

Source: The Sundaily

From left: Datuk K.C. Vohrah, Datuk Mah Weng Kwai, Datuk Mohamed Arshad Raji, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, and Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi. Image from The Sun Daily.

PETALING JAYA: The Council of Eminent Persons has announced the formation of the Committee on Institutional Reforms aimed to assist the newly-formed Pakatan Harapan government on economic and financial matters.

In a statement, the council also stated that it had appointed five prominent figures, including former Malaysian Bar president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, to sit in the reform committee.

“Economic reform on its own cannot bring the desired change unless accompanied by institutional reforms,” the statement read.

The five persons appointed into the committee were:
1. Retired Court of Appeal judge Datuk K.C. Vohrah
2. Retired Court of Appeal judge and Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) commissioner Datuk Mah Weng Kwai
3. Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) president Brig-Gen (Rtd) Datuk Mohamed Arshad Raji
4. National Human Rights Society (Hakam) president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan
5. Universiti Malaya Law professor Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi

Members of the committee would present its findings and recommendations on institutional reforms to the council, the statement read. Read more

‘We’re on the same side’, Ambiga tells #UndiRosak

Source: Malay Mail Online

PETALING JAYA, Feb 11 — Former Bersih 2.0 chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan told #UndiRosak proponents today that they were similar to those who wanted a change of government.

However, Ambiga said that it was still voting which would bring about real change.

“We are actually on the same side. We are not on the opposing side because you decide the system, we decide the system too. We say, you must vote to change the system. You say, we don’t vote to change [the] system.

Read more

Indira Gandhi’s case shows civil law trumps shariah law

Source: The Malaysian Insight

THE landmark decision in the M. Indira Gandhi case sets a precedent that civil law prevails over shariah law, lawyers and civil groups said today.

The Federal Court yesterday ruled that the unilateral conversion of Indira’s three children to Islam was null and void, requiring the consent of both parents and the constitutional word “parent” was a case of being lost in translation.

Lawyers for Liberty’s Eric Paulsen said the ruling prevents cases which takes into consideration both civil and shariah law to bypass the common law.

“The judgment is extremely significant, as it conclusively stated that unilateral conversion is no longer valid.

“Therefore, a newly converted spouse can no longer circumvent civil law and go through the shariah system in order to unfairly gain custody of the children,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

Read more