Media statement by Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan and International Secretary for DAP Women Kasthuriraani Patto on Thursday, 10 December 2020 in Parliament, Kuala Lumpur:
Human rights must be accorded to every single person under the Malaysian sun and not just to be enjoyed only by the powerful and privileged in order for Malaysia not to be seen as a land that harbours “criminal supremacists’.
The theme for the Human Rights Day this year, is “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights”, is a prompt reminder how human rights must be at the centre of the post COVID-19 world. Often human rights suffers as the greatest casualty, in a time of heightened anxiety, closed borders, and the increasing rise of racism, homophobia, xenophobia, violence against women and children, sexual violence, to impede the freedom of religion and belief and the slow decay of human rights of the marginalised, the minority and the voiceless.
All across the world, Governments continue to battle with rising voices of extremism, radicalism, sexism, hate fuelled speech and bigotry. Some have been more successful than others, and some Governments have taken the easy way out by allowing those in privileged and powerful positions, giving them immunity and protecting them from the long arm of the law.
An interesting example would be how the Government handled the case of a Culture, Youth and Sports Minister also Member of Parliament for Tampin Datuk Mokhtar Hashim who shot his political rival, the Speaker of the State Assembly in Negeri Sembilan Datuk Mohamad Taha Talib in 1982, as they were both from the same political party, UMNO. On April 14, 2 shots were fired, and the Speaker was killed outside his own house. Mokhtar Hashim then was seen at the funeral of the man he shot and subsequently was arrested and charged for murder alongside 3 other men. In Malaysia the punishment for murder (Sec 302 of the Penal Code) is the mandatory death penalty. If found guilty for murder, then punishment if the mandatory death penalty. Apart from that a discharge from a firearm also warrants the mandatory death penalty, both of which witnesses said Mokhtar was guilty of. Mokhtar Hashim was sentenced to death, and then commuted to life imprisonment and in 1991 was pardoned by the King and released – less than 10 years after the killing of Taha Talib.
In shocking stark contrast, in December 1981 a poor labourer Sim Kie Chon, 28, was detained under the Internal Security Act (1960) for the unlawful possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to death in June 1983. The ISA was an archaic tyrannical law where detainees undergo “detention without trial” for years and years because they are considered “a threat to national security” . And a possession of firearm could face the mandatory death penalty. Sim Kie Chon never used the gun, never discharged it but was sentenced to death. The DAP organised a nationwide signature campaign in 1985, and at that time even PAS was also involved in appealing to the Government to review his death sentence and pressed on instead for life imprisonment. An appeal was made for a royal pardon and for clemency to commute his sentence. His appeal was rejected and he was executed on August 15 1985.
One set of laws. Two very different men. One privileged and powerful. One a poor labourer. One pardoned for a grievous crime and one executed for a far less offence.
While both men were detained within the shortest period of time from one another yet, one walked free after less than 10 years in prison for the discharge of a firearm and killing someone and the other was sentenced and hanged to death for a mere possession of a firearm.
Whilst the topic for discussion here is not about the death penalty but how human rights are applied for different people in Malaysia. The Orang Asli community who have had their rights and land rights denied, women who suffer at the hands of unequal discriminatory wages, for children born overseas to Malaysian mothers to be conferred citizenship, victims of enforced disappearances, those threatened in practising their faith safely, deaths in custody, protection for migrants and refugees and those on death penalty. And the rich, privileged and the powerful arte protected by the same system in place.
Fast forward to 2020 in a time of this pandemic, and we see 2 sets of applications of the same laws, when meting out sentences for those who have violated COVID-19 SOPs.
Upon the imposition of the Movement Control Order in March till now, Members of Parliaments, ministers, deputy ministers and even their children had been seen gallivanting happily without facemasks, at large gatherings and travelling about with their whole entourage, and breaching the 14 day quarantine by attending Parliament after a trip to Turkey, with no initial action taken whatsoever, and then subsequent light slaps on the wrist shows the double, triple, and quadruple standards practised by the Government when the man and woman on the street would have been charged a minimum of RM1000 for any violation of the SOPs in place.
Human rights in Malaysia must not be seen as a threat to national security. It must not be seen as an enemy of the state. The right to clean drinking water is a human right. The right to ancestral, native customary land is a human right. The right to education is a human right. The right to equal pay wage is a human right. The access to justice is a human right. The freedom of expression and speech is a human right. The right to be heard in a court of law is a human right. The rights of women and children, the disabled and the aged are all human rights. The right to profess and practise your faith freely is a human right. The right to life is a human right.
This year as we celebrate human rights, Malaysians must realise that, as a nation, we must rise above ourselves and save this nation from being controlled and plagued by criminal supremacists who have no regard or respect for the rule of law and use it at their convenience to bury past, current and future criminal activities.
Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan
International Secretary for DAP Women Malaysia