SUARAM 30 Years Defending Human Rights In Malaysia
SUARAM was born under the shadow of the ISA. Detention-without-trial has been the favourite tool of repression used by the Malaysian state to arrest and detain persons indefinitely without trial ever since its legislation in 1960. Under the rule of Prime Minister Mahathir from 1981, authoritarian measures have included detention without trial, restrictions on the mass media, the assault on the judiciary in 1988, and the centralization of power in the Executive. Operation Lalang in October 1987 produced an unprecedented coalition of democratic forces that emerged to fight for the release of the detainees. It also ignited a new effort among families of the detainees and their support group to provide support for the detainees as well as to campaign for their release. The comradeship among the families and their supporters among the NGOs was crucial in sustaining the anti-ISA campaign. The legacy of this support group and its working method provided the motivating force for the formation of SUARAM in 1989.
A Collective of Committed Activists
We believe that to make democracy work we have to actively step up the demands from outside Putrajaya and Parliament; to empower citizens through the process of participation, realising our rights through direct action and solidarity with other progressive organisations. True democracy involves more than just periodic elections. It is about rebuilding society by developing basic values of autonomy, solidarity and responsibility for life and for future generations. Our commitment to sustainable development goes beyond pious hopes that greedy developers and the State will initiate mitigative measures to unsustainable projects as was seen in the Bakun and the Sungai Selangor dams, land reclamations and deforestation for plantations. The practice of real democracy involves full citizens’ participation, including mobilising opposition to all forms of environmental destruction.
The Malaysian Human Rights Centre
SUARAM actively intervenes to support victims and their families when their basic rights have been violated in such cases of arbitrary arrest and detention, forced evictions and abuse of police powers. While victims of state oppression and police abuse include the broad masses in Malaysia, marginalized communities such as the urban poor, estate workers and indigenous people tend to bear the brunt of human rights violations. SUARAM releases ‘urgent appeals’ during such exigencies; coordinates ‘urgent arrest teams’ to monitor and assist those who have been arrested during peaceful assemblies; arrange legal assistance, media publicity and referral services.
|Author||Kua Kia Soong|