Photo by Jul Indra Tofan, Administrative Assistant, Bar Council
A very good evening to
YB Maria Chin Abdullah (“YB Maria Chin”),
Representatives from non-governmental organisations,
Members of the Bar,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
- On behalf of the Bar Council Human Rights Committee (“HRC”), I bid all of you a warm welcome to our “Direct Talk Series”, where prominent personalities from across the spectrum will be invited to raise important issues – both national and international – that they find pressing and are passionate about. This “Direct Talk Series” will be on a no-holds-barred basis, where freedom of speech and expression is the central key.
- I would like to record my appreciation on behalf of the Bar to YB Maria Chin for accepting our invitation to be the speaker for our first “Direct Talk Series”. YB Maria Chin will speak on current and pressing human rights issues.
- It is timely and fitting that we learn more about human rights through today’s “Direct Talk Series” in the month of December. December is the month we honour the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an international document proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948, stating the basic rights and fundamental freedoms to which all human beings are entitled.
- Just earlier this month, HRC collaborated with the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA) to hold a briefing session on “Delivering Justice for the Rohingya: Malaysia’s Role in the Gambia v Myanmar”, which was delivered by Professor John Packer. Professor John Packer briefed the participants on the Gambia's case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for violating the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention) in relation to Rohingya Muslims.
- In conjunction with the Human Rights Day observed on 10 December, the Malaysian Bar, via a press statement issued by President Datuk Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor, reminded the Government to remain faithful to election manifesto promises on human rights and implement the same without delay.
- The Bar will continue to raise awareness on pressing domestic and international human rights issues and push the Government for greater human rights reforms. It is pertinent to remind ourselves in this Human Rights Month that the protection of human rights and the rule of law are indispensable to the growth of a democratic nation. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Democracy and human rights are inseparable. We cannot have the one without the other”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- Allow me to provide a little bit of background of YB Maria Chin. YB Maria Chin is a strong advocate for electoral and institutional reform. She was the chairperson of Bersih 2.0. She led the massive Bersih 4 and Bersih 5 rallies for free and fair elections. Just before the Bersih 5 rally, she was detained without trial under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (“SOSMA”) for 11 days in solitary confinement.
- On 9 May 2018, YB Maria Chin became a Member of Parliament (“MP”) after winning the Petaling Jaya constituency seat. As an MP, she continues to advocate for a life of dignity for all Malaysians. At the Federal level, she is the Chair of the All-Party Parliament Group Malaysia (“APPGM”) on the sustainable development goals (“SDGs”), a member of the Caucus on Reform and Governance, and sits on the People’s Harmony Consultative Council (“PHCC”).
- YB Maria Chin has always given her full support to Bar’s events. Last year, the Bar Council Constitutional Law Committee held a forum on the “Importance of a Strong Opposition for a Vibrant Democracy”. YB Maria Chin was one of the speakers and contributed to the success of the said forum.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- We hope that through a dialogue with YB Maria Chin today, we can identify how the Pakatan Harapan administration can improve their mixed track record on human rights reforms, especially after so many pledges and promises to reform have been reneged. There are continuing pressing human rights concerns that the Government has to address and redress. These include the use of draconian laws that the Government promised to repeal such as SOSMA which was recently used against 12 individuals allegedly linked to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ("LTTE"), and the Government’s U-turn on acceding to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Further, ratifications of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as recommended by the Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) in its public inquiry into the disappearances of Amri Che Mat and Raymond Pastor Koh, have not been done.
- As a staunch human rights defender and now a Member of Parliament (MP) of the ruling party, we hope that YB Maria Chin will continue to be vocal on human rights reforms and remind the Government to implement the same.
- In addition, we hope that YB Maria Chin’s track record of defending human rights and her experience of standing up for a fairer, more democratic and transparent election will inspire more young Members of the Bar to stand up against human rights violations, social injustice and political persecution.
With that, I wish you all a fruitful and engaging dialogue session. Thank you.
Roger Chan Weng Keng
Chairperson, Bar Council Human Rights Committee, and Vice-President, Malaysian Bar
17 Dec 2019