I have just returned from the Suhakam office after attending the “Bloody Sunday” Incident press conference hosted by Commissioners KC Vohrah, Zaitoon Othman, Choo Siew Kioh and Micheal Yeoh a while ago.The 365-page report pointed out that the police were found using “excessive force” in carrying out their duties, causing harm and wounded several protestors. The Commission also made some very important recommendations to the police.
In my immediate response to the report, I commended the Commissioners for their thorough report and the useful recommendations made in the report.
I also echoed the call made by a former Commissioner Prof Hamdan that Suhakam must be given the enforcement power in order to be effective in checking human rights violations. I criticised the BN government for not allowing any debates in the Parliament on the various Human Rights Reports tabled by Suhakam in the past.
In the press conference, I also said that as one of the organisers of peaceful demonstrations, I always made it a point to remind the police that they were not our target. They should remain neutral and their single duty was to maintain law and order. But the message seems to be fallen on deaf ears so far and there were signs that the police force was getting more and more aggressive and cruel to the protesters. I warned that if the police continues to behave like hooligans, one day, the protestors may be forced to protect themselves by reacting with force or even retaliate. I said that we used to criticise protestors in other countries for bringing sticks and stones to the demonstarations. But if the police continues to act violently against the protesters, who knows even protestors in Malaysia may be forced into corners and also resort to such measures. No one wants to see Malaysia to be reduced to such sorry state.
I repeated a point I made in the public enquiry earler, where I insisted that all police officers who were sent to control crowd must wear their name tags and number badges for identity. I believed such practise will also help to deter the police officers from using violence against the protestors. I noticed that Suhakam has included my suggestion in their recommendations. Watch this blog for more details of the Suhakam report.
Sdr Saari Sungib was also there to air his views. He said that while the Commission has been consistent in their reports and recommendations, he was very disappointed with the police force because they “consistently”used violence on peaceful and orderly protestors. Saari, a former ISA detainee and regular participant of public protests, was assaulted by the police last Sunday at the Summit toll hike protest.I can still see the bruises on his wrist very clearly.
A member of the press “cynically” remarked that the police seems to have chosen to ignore whatever recommendations made by Suhakam and the Commission was seen to be toothless and helpless. Chang Lih Kang of Suaram asked whether the Suhakam has a route map to implement all recommendations.
KC Vohrah’s response to my comments gives us an impression that he too believe in having the enforcement power, but he said that most of the human rights commissions in the world were not given such powers except for India, where the commission has the power to grant compensations to the victims. He said the Commission has been organising education roadshow with the police officers on human rights, but short of admitting that such programs have failed to work.
Both Commissioners Choo and Micheal Yeoh turned the table by asking the press to provide prominence to the Suhakam findings and recommendations. Choo says that media could play a vital role by giving good media reports and Yeoh argues that such complete media reports would help to drum up public opinion and eventually help to improve human rights conditions in this country. A picture of “toothless media vs toothless Suhakam” quickly froms in my mind. I count myself lucky because no one has told me right in my face that the opposition was also toothless. 🙂
I was arrested soon after I thanked the Sarawakians for voting in more opposition representatives as a protest on petrol hikes, among other issues like land and social injustices.