Suhakam’s human rights event to be now held on Sunday

Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) will now hold its Human Rights Day celebration on Sunday, after postponing it from tomorrow due to police concerns over security.

Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail said the event will be held at the same time and place, with the same line-up of programmes and guests.

However, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is not expected to attend due to the short notice. He was scheduled to be present at tomorrow’s event.

In a statement today, Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail said the commission was advised to call off the Saturday event by the police and the Prime Minister’s Department due to security concerns as it would coincide with the anti-International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) rally to be held in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow at about the same time.

Razali told reporters during a press conference that any security risks should be dealt with by the police.

“If you’re talking about democracy in the new Malaysia, it must come down to the police to ensure this democracy,” he said.

“I asked to be told what the risks were but I did not get the details,” he said.

Razali added that they were not required to get permission from the police to hold their gathering but felt compelled to postpone it due to recent developments.

“The prime minister decided not to come and advised us to postpone (the gathering) so we have to take that into account,” he said.

The other Suhakam commissioners present during the press conference were Mah Weng Kwai, Jerald Joseph, Lok Yim Pheng, Aishah Bidin and Nik Saida Suhaila Nik Saleh.

Jerald, Mah and Lok voiced unhappiness with media reports calling the Human Rights Day event a “counter-rally”.

“This is not a counter-rally, this is a Human Rights Day gathering. We are not trying to counter the anti-Icerd rally. We support their right to a peaceful assembly,” Mah said.

Lok added they wholeheartedly support any kind of assembly as long as they were peaceful.

Meanwhile, Aishah said this was the first time a Human Rights Day celebration, which was usually organised annually, was cancelled due to security concerns.

The commissioners agreed that the development was worrying.

However, Razali assured that this should not reflect negatively on the state of human rights in Malaysia, because it was only postponed, and not cancelled.

He said many in Malaysia still supported human rights.

Suhakam’s Human Rights Day event was planned to be held at Padang Timur in Petaling Jaya, with the prime minister as the guest of honour, from 9am to 3pm. It was expected to attract about 3,000 people.

The anti-ICERD rally will take place at Kuala Lumpur’s Dataran Merdeka from 2pm to 6pm. The organisers expect about 500,000 people to attend.