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Feb 28, 2008

Human Rights Demands for the Coming General Elections 2008

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Our forebears have fought for Merdeka in 1957 so that all men and women, regardless of race and religion, can live a life with dignity, free from fear and free from want in a new country where freedom, justice and peace prevail.

Regrettably, after 50 years of independence under the rule of the Alliance and the National Front (Barisan Nasional) coalitions, human rights in Malaysia have deteriorated dramatically. Indeed, it makes a mockery of the Merdeka that we achieved when the vibrant freedom of the press, expression, assembly and association exercised by our forebears against the British during colonial times would be lost under the rule of our own people after independence.

It is high time for the people to reclaim our rights, our freedoms and our country in the coming general election.

1. Reject Racialised Politics and Racism

The kind of politics perpetuated by Barisan Nasional has divided the citizens rather than united the country. Human rights violations, abuses of powers, mismanagement of public funds and corruption in the government thrive under the protective umbrella of racialised politics. Anyone challenging cronyism, corruption and nepotism of the powers-that-be would be persecuted for inciting racial tensions and posing a threat to national security. Malaysian citizens, living under the fear of the Internal Security Act and the bogeyman of the May 13 tragedy, are silenced and stripped of their rights.

We call on all voters to reject candidates and political parties that resort to racial and religious extremism. We demand for the enactment of a Race Relations Act and a permanent Race Relations Commission to outlaw racism and incitement of racial hatred.

2. Repeal All Emergency Laws and Laws that permit Detention without Trial

Despite the fact that Malaysians have lived in peace without war or conflict in the last three decades, the emergency laws and anti-subversion laws previously proclaimed by the government, which vest enormous emergency powers in the hands of the state and suspend civil and political rights of the people, remain in force to this date. These laws have been rampantly abused by the ruling parties.

We call for the four proclamations of emergency in 1964, 1966, 1969 and 1977 to be revoked officially by the coming parliament. We demand that all emergency and anti-subversion laws and measures, especially the Internal Security Act 1960 and the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985 which provide for indefinite detention without trial, be repealed immediately. We demand that immediate release of all those detained under the emergency laws be charged in court or be released immediately.

3. Respect and Protect Freedom of Expression, Assembly and Association

Freedom of expression, assembly and association are fundamental rights for citizens to participate in policy decision making. However, these rights have been continuously curtailed with the justification of national security when in realty it is no more than suppressing the citizens from raising legitimate concerns such as corruption, abuses of powers and the failures of the government policies.

We call for the abolition of the Sedition Act and the enactment of a Whistle-Blower Protection legislation to protect freedom of expression. The right to freedom of assembly and association should be allowed to be exercised without hindrance while all authorities’ decisions should be subjected to judicial scrutiny. We call for the abolition of Section 27 of the Police Act that subject public assemblies to the approval of the police.

4. Form the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission

The rising crime rates in the country in recent years have indicated that the Royal Malaysian Police has failed in its duty. To make matters worse, the police force today has reduced itself to become a tool of coercion and violence for the powers-that-be to remain in power. The rights of the Malaysian citizens are trampled. A professional police force that is effective in fighting crimes, respects human rights while enforcing the laws, politically impartial in carrying out their duties and free from corruption can only be achieved with an independent oversight mechanism with adequate powers.

We demand for the implementation of the 125 recommendations made by the Royal Commission on police reform, especially the formation of the Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

5. Stamp out Corruption

Corruption has been widespread in the government and unchallenged under the protection of the powerful ruling elites. Mega projects are awarded to individuals and companies who are politically well connected. In the process, project costs have multiplied to exorbitant levels and have led to huge unnecessary social costs at the expense of public monies. Tax payers are made to pay double for the corruption and the rising costs of living as a result of the former.

We demand that all ministers and public servants declare publicly their personal wealth before taking office. All ministers and public servants who live beyond their means should be investigated and prosecuted for corruption. We call on the Anti-Corruption Agency to be made independent from the Prime Minister’s office and to report to the Parliament solely.

6. Uphold the Independence of the Judiciary

The recent Lingam tape scandal has confirmed the widespread public perception that our judiciary is highly corrupt and partial to the powers-that-be, especially after the 1988 judicial crisis. It has failed to defend the rights of the people and deliver justice to the victims of the rich and the powerful.

We demand judicial independence to be restored immediately by rescinding the constitutional amendment of Article 121(1) that undermines the separation of powers in a functioning democracy and the formation of an independent judicial commission in appointing and promoting judges.

7. End the New Economic Policy

The New Economic Policy (NEP) has deviated from its original objectives and has become a tool for a small group of ruling elites of different ethnic communities to accumulate enormous wealth. The majority of the Malays has hardly benefited from the policy while the poor non-Malays are deprived of social assistance. The NEP is a divisive policy that perpetuates racial discrimination. It also compromises meritocracy and undermines our country’s competitiveness in the globalised world.

We demand that the NEP be abolished immediately and be replaced with an affirmative action policy that is based on individual needs and merits regardless of race or religion.

8. Reform the Electoral System

The Malaysian electoral system is deeply flawed and is not able to reflect the true popular will of the people. It has deviated from the ‘one person one vote’ principle with large disparities of the number of voters from one constituency to another. The electoral roll is rigged and postal votes are often deployed by ruling parties to rob victory in crucial areas. The voters are deprived of the right to information and the right to make informed decisions with the opposition having no access to mainstream media. The Election Commission is partial to the ruling parties.

We demand the reform of the electoral system by setting up a royal commission on electoral reforms with the aims to restore the ‘one person one vote’ principle, clean up the electoral roll, abolish postal votes and ensure equal access to the media by all parties. Local government election must be restored. Appointment of members of the Election Commission must be done in a transparent and accountable manner with public consultation.

9. Uphold Press Freedom

Press freedom in Malaysia has been severely curtailed by the restrictive laws such as the Printing Presses and Publication Act that requires annual license renewal of newspapers and magazines. The situation is made worse with the ownership of mainstream media and the abuse of state media such as RTM by the ruling parties. This seriously undermines the right to information and the right to make informed decision of the citizen to check the abuse of powers and corruption in the government, the parliament and the judiciary.

We demand for the repeal of the Printing Presses and Publication Act, the Official Secret Act, the legislation of a Freedom of Information Act, and the setting up of a parliamentary select committee to review all other legislations which relate to press freedom.

10. Respect Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The economic growth in Malaysia has not been accompanied with just distribution of the wealth created. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing bigger and wider, especially in the Malay community. Many remain in poverty without adequate food, housing and access to basic and essential services such as water, electricity, healthcare and education, especially in the rural areas and the indigenous people’s communities.

We demand compliance of economic, social and cultural rights standards and a national minimum wage policy in order to ensure an adequate standard of living for all. Furthermore, religion, culture and the mother tongue languages of minorities should be respected and allowed to be practiced and developed freely. The building of Chinese and Tamil schools should be allowed according to needs and with fair allocation of public funds. Malaysia is a secular state under the Federal Constitution with Islam as the official religion, while other religions must be respected and allowed to be practiced freely.

11. Ensure Gender Equality

Women continue to be marginalised in Malaysia, especially in the decision-making process. This discrimination based on various justifications, ranging for religion to culture, must be ended. Women should be treated as equal to men.

We call on voters to reject all sexist candidates such as Mohd Said Yusof and Bung Mokhtar Radin, former parliamentarians from Jasin and Kinabatangan. We demand an equal representation of women in all fields and key decision-making positions and equal treatment of men and women before the law.

12. Protect the Environment

The developmental model pursued by Malaysia without taking into account social costs has led to massive pollution of rivers and oceans, destruction of forests, and poisoning of the soil and underground water. The protection of the national car industry has not only caused massive traffic jams in cities and an underdeveloped public transport system, but has also led to release of large amounts of green house gases, contributing to global warming.

We demand more stringent environmental protection legislations to protect rivers, oceans, forests, and clean air and water. Efficient, accessible and affordable public transport system should be priority in town planning to avoid over reliance on personal vehicles.

We urge all candidates and political parties to pledge their support towards these human rights demands.

We call on all voters to support only candidates and political parties that are committed to all the 12 human rights demands and reject those who refuse to uphold any of these 12 human rights demands.

Vote for change! Vote for a better Malaysia!

This statement of election human rights demands is endorsed by:

1. Alaigal
2. Aliran Kesedaran Negara
3. All Women's Action Society (AWAM)
4. Amnesty International (AI) Malaysia
5. Artis Pro Activ (APA)
6. Bar Council Human Rights Committee
7. Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)
8. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
9. Child Development Initiative
10. Civil Rights Committee of The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH)
11. Community Development Centre (CDC)
12. Federasi Kaum Tamil Sedunia Malaysia
13. Food Not Bombs (KL)
14. Gabungan Peneroka Bandar – Perak
15. Gabungan Petani – Perak (GEPETAK)
16. Group of Concerned Citizens (GCC)
17. Institut Kajian Dasar (IKD)
18. International Community Christian Education and Human Right
19. Inter Varsity Council (IVC)
20. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
21. Kelab Bell Belia Tamil
22. Labor Resource Centre (LRC)
23. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)
24. Malaysia Youth & Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
25. Malaysian Indian Development and Unity Association
26. Malaysian Voters Union (MALVU)
27. National Institute of Electoral Integrity
28. Penang Heritage Trust 
29. Persatuan Alumni LiHua PBTUSM Kuala Lumpur dan Selangor
30. Persatuan Kebajikan Masyarakat dan Sosial India
31. Persatuan Kebangsaan Hak Asasi Manusia (HAKAM)
32. Persatuan Kemajuan Pendidikan Malaysia
33. Persatuan Konsumer Klang
34. Persatuan Pembaca Tamil Klang
35. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor
36. Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP)
37. Pusat Janadaya (Empower)
38. Pusat Khidmat Pekerja Tanjung (PKPT)
39. Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (KOMAS)
40. Research For Social Advancement (REFSA)
41. Save Our School (SOS) Damansara committee
42. Save Ourselves, Penang (SOS)
43. Semparuthi Iyakkam
44. Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM)
45. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
46. Tenaganita
47. The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall – Youth Section (KLSCAH-Youth)
48. The People's Parliament
49. Writer Alliance For Media Independence (WAMI)
50. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
51. Women's Centre for Change Penang (WCC)


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