Monday 1 August 2011

Clock ticking for the Najib regime

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s move to punish supporters of a rally supporting the call for clean and fair elections has brought him tremendous shame. Still, the premier continues to remain oblivious to the July 9 misdeeds committed and goes on pleading for the rakyat’s support.

International human rights agencies did not mince their words in condemning Najib for abusing the tenets of human rights and using the police to pulverise Bersih 2.0 “Walk for Democracy” rally supporters.
More recently, stinging criticism against the heavy-handed approach used by Najib to quell the rally supporters has come from LawAsia, a global organisation of lawyers, judges and legal experts.

LawAsia president Lester Huang hit the nail on the head when he said “the government of the day appeared to make political survival a priority instead of adhering to the country’s democratic principles”.

Malaysia, said Huang, did not comply with the “United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials” which it adopted in 1990.

In the July 9 rally, police allegedly fired tear gas canisters directly into the crowds of protesters. Premises like the Tung Shin Hospital also bore the brunt of the unbridled police action when water cannons and tear gas were fired inside its compound.

Huang is not the least convinced that the approach used by the police to disperse the rally supporters was a standard operating procedure.

The LawAsia head warned Malaysia’s leadership that it had to be more mindful of the rights of its citizens and take its regional role seriously. He said Malaysia’s membership on the United Nations Human Rights Council was called into question.

Malaysia was last year re-elected by the UN General Assembly for a three-year term on the 47-nation Human Rights Council based in Geneva.

“It is of profound regret to the regional legal community that the reaction to the Bersih movement sees these principles cast aside. Actions of this sort in any country will always deserve the strongest criticism from the legal community on both legal and humanitarian grounds,” Huang said.

But then the Najib regime has scant respect for citizens’ right to peaceful assembly or their right to know the truth, the latter referring to the purchase of the Scorpene submarines.

‘Gag’ order on rakyat remains

Be it the May 1 Labour Day rally or the Bersih 2.0 “Walk for Democracy”, the status quo remains in Malaysia, where a “gag” order is placed on the rakyat, preventing them from taking a stand and supporting any cause.

Likewise, all attempts are made by Najib to hide the truth from the people. The appearance of French human rights lawyer William Bourdon to speak about the procurement of the submarines left Najib, under whom the deal was inked, gasping for ways to get rid of Bourdon.

Bourdon was hired by Malaysian human rights body Suaram in 2009 to file a case against French naval giant DCNS over irregularities in the Scorpene submarines purchase that allegedly involved millions of ringgit in kickbacks.

The French authorities are currently probing the deal, which was also linked to Najib and the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Using the excuse that Bourdon had violated his social visa, the “powers that be” made it difficult for the lawyer, which prompted Bourdon to take a flight back to Paris two days ahead of his scheduled departure.
Three days after Bourdon left for Paris, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on July 24 said that Bourdon, 55, was deported because he violated his social visa by giving a speech in Penang.

Hishammuddin insisted there was no hidden political agenda.

But to Bourdon, the home minister’s version was nothing short of gibberish.

“I don’t know what the minister is talking about because I didn’t even have a social visa. So it is very strange that he is speaking of one,” Bourdon told FMT in an interview from Paris.

Bourdon’s fiancee, Lea Forrestier, said citizens of the European Union do not need a visa for travel into Malaysia.

Do not continue shaming Malaysia

Meanwhile, Suaram in its Malaysian Human Rights Report 2010 said human rights standards in Malaysia continue to deteriorate under Najib’s administration despite efforts to project himself as a moderate leader. And the year 2010 saw little or no improvement in this area.

As for laws which provide for detention without trial, Suaram said the authorities were stretching the laws’ limitations.

Although the Penal Code makes provision to prosecute human traffickers, the government continues to instead use the Internal Security Act (ISA) against such offenders.

Suaram said that in 2010 there were 25 arrests made under the ISA. Of this number, nine were detained for human trafficking.

On the issue of Emergency Ordinance (EO), Suaram director Kua Sia Soong also said that there were similar developments with the EO.

Kua was referring to the detention of six Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) members under the EO last month, for allegedly playing a role in the Bersih 2.0 rally.

“Traditionally, the EO is used for alleged kingpins and criminals. These six are probably a new trend, maybe because they (the government) are a bit shy over (public) condemnation of the use of ISA,” Kua said at the release of Suaram’s annual report on July 26.

The report also noted that the number of those detained under the EO had increased by 400% over the last 10 years.

Change for the rakyat’s sake

Najib has to reflect on his actions that have turned the rakyat against him. There is no room left for arrogance and post-July 9, the wrath that Najib has earned from the people back home and abroad will reflect poorly in his résumé.

The Bersih 2.0 rally, the Scorpene submarines deal and the Royal Commission of Inquiry’s report that DAP political aide Teoh Beng Hock had committed suicide – these developments are the Damocles Sword that hang over Najib’s head.

Najib would do well to realise that the “ball is now in the rakyat’s court” and they are no longer in a mood to witness any more rhetoric from the Barisan Nasional leadership. For Najib, the saving grace would be to clean up the mess he has made, the latest being the July 9 attack on the Bersih 2.0 rally supporters.

The clock is ticking and there is no more room left for arrogance for Najib and his bandwagon of self-serving politicians. The rakyat have wisened up and this is what Najib is most afraid of.

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