Thursday, March 23, 2006

Will You Tolerate Threatening Remarks From Ministers and Leaders?

UPDATED: Read also The Sun's article on page 19 by Datuk Param Cumaraswamy, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.



Here's the C&P in case you haven't got your free copy in hand:

Sedition Act call unjustified

If a conservative Islamic State (Saudi Arabia) could invite a non-Muslim to look into their system and advise I find it very difficult to understand why in a plural society like Malaysia there should be such strictures over open dialogue on one another's religion, race, culture, including human rights and procedural rights in Islam.

Lawyers I carried out missions in several countries to study and advise on the laws and procedures in the justice systems.

One such country which invited me was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reputed to be one of the most conservative Islamic states in the world. Under my mandate I received information related to unfair trials, problems regarding access to lawyers and an apparent lack of transparency in the judicial process in Saudi Arabia.

At my request the Government invited me to Riyadh to evaluate the system and in particular the procedures in criminal justice. I was the first Special Rapporteur in the UN System invited by Saudi Arabia.

During the week-long mission, I met with Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Islamic Affairs, Justice, the Board of Senior Religious Scholars (Ulamas), the Council of Ministers, the Judges including the head of the Supreme Judicial Council (equivalent to the Supreme Court), prosecutors, lawyers and the academia.

In the course of the extensive meetings, I discussed and commented on the weaknesses of the criminal procedure code, the delays in implementation of some legislation and methods of interrogations in pretrial detentions. I even advised the two senior ministers about my concerns over the arrest and pre trial detentions of a few foreigners whose detentions drew international attention at that time. They were subsequently released a few months after my mission and my report to the UN Commission on Human Rights.

At the end of my seven-day mission I concluded that the administration of justice in Saudi Arabia was guided by the Syariah, of which the Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet formed the Constitution. However, I found that there was no dispute that the essence of the Syariah was the pursuit of justice and the procedures enacted and applied to achieve that objective i.e. justice, can be commented upon, questioned and if necessary changed. It is in this context that Saudi Arabia ratified some of the international treaties on Human Rights including the Convention Against Torture, which Malaysia has not. During my mission the Council of Ministers discussed their intention to ratify the two major 1966 Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic Social and Cultural Rights.

I was able to also discuss with the competent authorities the position of women in the practice of the law and appointment to the Syariah Bench.

Throughout my mission, I never heard of any question from any quarter, including the media, as to why a non-Muslim was invited by the Government to look into and comment on their system. Despite my comments and criticisms neither the Government nor any other quarter including the media alleged that I belittled Islam.

My report on the mission was presented to the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2003. The Government of Saudi Arabia accepted most of my findings and promised implementation. Subsequently in March 2004 the Minister of Justice invited me to a symposium on "Judiciary and Judicial Law in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" in Riyadh under the patronage of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince expressing that my presence at the symposium was of great importance.

If a conservative Islamic State could invite a non-Muslim, though I was no doubt then holding an international mandate, to look into their system and advise I find it very difficult to understand why in a plural society like Malaysia there should be such strictures over open dialogue on one another's religion, race, culture, including human rights and procedural rights in Islam. Constructive comments even criticisms on such issues should not be seen as belittling the religion.

I for one will not fold my arms and stay away from expressing my concerns openly if I find that my Muslim sisters' and brothers' human rights are violated or may be violated in proposed legislation just because being a non-Muslim I should not be seen interfering in their affairs. That will be a betrayal of my broader societal duty as a Malaysian.

What may be the root cause here is politics. As Malaysians will commemorate the 50th anniversary of independence next year the Government should seriously consider moving towards separation of religion from politics. That no doubt requires considerable political will.


***

Just 3 days ago, we had Nazri Aziz saying that:

"Non-Muslims Stay Clear or Else Straight to Kamunting Will You Go!"

Just one question: "Reciprocal?"

To quote a letter from Malaysiakini:

...if the same rationale would apply to Muslims who incite the sentiments of non-Muslims?

Perhaps the esteemed minister should repeat the same warning the next time elected Muslim MPs use racially derogatory phrases in Parliament, or when Muslim firebrand politicians wave a kris in the air proclaiming their racial superiority. Or when many of the other incendiary statements are made in the name of institutionalised discrimination.

This latest statement from the minister is nothing more than a threat against all non-Muslim citizens designed to cow us into silent submission and acceptance.

How does a threat help promote racial integration, dear minister?

Kids, that is Nazri Aziz.

And then just a moment ago, Khir 'Semuanya O.K.' Toyo threatened the victims of the Selangor Water Festival whether to choose between compensation or more floods as 'the only solution':

"You want more floods or compensation," asked Dr Khir when a representative of the Taman TTDI Jaya residents association raised the question on compensation during the People's Problem Inventory (IMR) with Menteri Besar here, Thursday.

"We understand and sympathise with the victims. However we are now concentrating on efforts to alleviate the flood menace so that the people won't have to face the floods again," he said.

Kids, that's your developed state MB.

And also not to mention those infamous 'Keluar Malaysia' quotes...

My question to you folks out there: "Will you tolerate threatening remarks from ministers and leaders?"

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