Human Rights Report 2014

Dear readers,

delayed new year´s wishes from Germany. Luckily I`m still in time for the Chinese New Year wishes, so Gong Xi Fa Cai to everyone.

The human rights organisation “Suara Rakyat Malaysia” published its annually Human Rights Report for everyone who is interested in the Human Rights Situation in Malaysia in 2014.

Dear friends of SUARAM,SUARAM would like to share with you some highlights of our work in 2014. It was indeed a challenging year for human rights, but with the support from Malaysians we will continue to do our best in defending all human rights for all.We thank you for the continuing support. As always, we welcome any feedback on our work. To be in contact, email us at


  Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

 Highlights for 2014

1. The ISA finally gone for good

After two decades of campaigning against detention without trial and the Internal Security Act (ISA), the last six ISA detainees were finally released on 5 January 2014.

The abolition of the ISA is a critical milestone for Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI), SUARAM, and many other NGOs who had struggled through the years for human rights.

Photo from: The final six ISA detainees being released in January (photo credits to The Star Online)

2. New wave of arbitrary detention laws

Despite the Internal Security Act (ISA) and Emergency Ordinance (EO) being abolished, arbitrary detention and detention without trial made a comeback soon after in the form of new laws such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA), Prevention of Crime (Amendment and Extension)  Act 1959 (PCA), and in the existing Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985 (DDA).

In 2015, the government is expected to introduce stricter arbitrary detention legislations in the form of anti-terrorism laws and tightening of the Sedition Act 1948.

SUARAM continues to monitor cases of arbitrary detention and campaigns for the right to a fair trial.

Photo: A scene from “Bilik Sulit”, a theatre performance based on the harrowing experiences that ISA detainees went through. Held in February, the performance was jointly organized by SUARAM, GMI, and Teater Bukan Teater.

3. Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan (GHAH)

In 2014, the government used the Sedition Act 1948 to extensively crackdown against dissenting voices. A total of 44 individuals – which includes politicians, elected representatives, lawyers, academic, a cartoonist, a journalist, religious leaders, social activists and students – were convicted, charged, or placed under investigation for sedition.

SUARAM convened an urgent meeting among the NGOs to form the “Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan” (GHAH) movement to demand for the abolition of the Sedition Act, dropping of all charges, and the release of those incarcerated. A total of 133 NGOs endorsed the movement.

GHAH’s campaigned relentlessly via activities such as: submission of people’s petition to the parliament, road shows, legal aid and support for victims, leafleting, submission of reports to the UN and other international human rights bodies, and documentation of cases.

Unfortunately, the government faltered to right-wing pressure when the Prime Minister announced in November that the Sedition Act 1948 would not be repealed, but instead strengthened. This effectively means that the Prime Minister had renegaded on his promise in 2012 to repeal the act.

Photo: The launch of GHAH in September, which was attended by over 800 concerned Malaysian. The event featured victims of the Sedition Act and their family members who spoke about the persecution.

4. Death in Custody – A long fight for justice for Ulaganathan’s family

A 11-year struggle for justice came to a close when the government agreed to compensate the family of Ulaganathan, who died under police custody in 2003.

SUARAM, together with the BAR Council have assisted Ulaganathan’s family in the civil suit against the police and government.

Photo: Press conference with Ulaganathan’s family in April

5. Penang Task Force on Death in Custody

Following a series of custodial death in Penang, SUARAM and other Penang NGOs has set up a taskforce on death in custody in collaboration with the state government.

The taskforce is assigned to monitor these cases, to investigate them and to offer legal assistant to the deceased’s family.

SUARAM is a member of the task force.

Photo: The Task Force on Death in Custody being launched by the State Government in July

6. Coalition Building

SUARAM believes in building coalitions and solidarity amongst civil society in Malaysia to collectively defend human rights.

In 2014, SUARAM continued to be part of key coalitions such as, among others, Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM), Negara-Ku, Bersih2.0, Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan (GHAH), and Coalition of Malaysian NGOs (COMANGO).

Photo: Launch of the Negara-Ku movement in July

7. International Advocacy

Through its SUARAM International network, SUARAM regularly highlights Malaysian human rights issues to the international community – such as the Sedition Act blitz and indigenous peoples issues – at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the European Union in Brussels.

The team also engage with various regional and international human rights groups to brief them about Malaysia and to co-organise events, in view of pressuring the government to fulfil its human rights obligations.

Photo: In March, SUARAM was part of the Malaysian NGO delegation for the United Nations’ Universal Period Review (UPR) on Malaysia in Geneva. The team presented a submission on key human rights issues in the country.

8. Anti-Baram Dam Campaign

SUARAM assisted the Anti-Mega Dam campaign and Save Rivers Network by supporting the launch of their fact finding mission report in a press conference, submission to SUHAKAM, and organizing a public forum.

Several mega dams are planned to be constructed in Sarawak and Sabah, most notably is the proposed Baram Dam in Sarawak, which could potentially flood a rainforest area of over 400km2 and displace up to 20,000 people from 26 villages.

Photo: In September, SUARAM and the Anti-Mega Dam network organized a protest during the ASEAN Power-Gen Conference to highlight the devastating impact of damns on human rights.

9. Human Rights Report

SUARAM published its Malaysia Human Rights Report 2013, which detailed the key human rights violations and developments during the year. Based on its documentation and monitoring, SUARAM has published human rights reports on Malaysia since 1998 without fail.

In December, SUARAM also published the 2014 Overview of Human Rights in Malaysia which highlighted six worrying trends.

Another milestone was achieved when SUARAM launched the first Penang Local Democracy Report 2014.

Photo: The Malaysia Human Rights Report 2013 launched in May in conjunction with SUARAM’s 25th Anniversary Dinner

10. Refugee and Human Trafficking

SUARAM Penang has been involved in work on human trafficking, modern day slavery and with refugee communities in Penang, through its involvement with the Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign.

The activities of criminal syndicates in the northern region of Malaysia, linked to cross-border syndicates involved in human trafficking, smuggling, extortion, rape, torture and murder, are of huge concern, and impact refugee and migrant communities more than most.

Working to build public awareness is one aspect. Crucial too is to support and encourage authorities to take all necessary action to protect the communities and identify, arrest, and prosecute those involved in the syndicates.

The Campaign also is developing community-based projects with a part of the Rohingya community in Penang, to help build strength, resilience and confidence in the spirit of empowerment and self-determination. This is long-term work and SUARAM Penang will be in it for the long run.

Photo: A campaign member reading out a testimony of a domestic worker in Malaysia, during the Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign in September.

11. Urgent Arrest Support

SUARAM provided urgent arrest support on various occasions, such as the May Day Rally, Anti-Lynas protest, and the arbitrary detention of Natalie Lowrey.

The team also conducted various training on police powers, i.e. on understanding our rights when stopped or detained by the police. Any organization interested in the training can contact SUARAM at

Photo: Suaram coordinator, Syukri Razab, conducting a police powers training with women from the indigenous people’s network in November.

12. Penang Local Democracy Festival

As part of its ongoing campaign to promote local democracy and good governance, SUARAM Penang successfully organized the Penang Local Democracy Festival. This is the fifth year SUARAM Penang has organised a local democracy programme in the state.

The festival kicked off with the Penang Youth Parliament in October, and featured a range of projects, including community-based programmes, a week-long event highlighting the situation facing migrants and refugees in Penang, initiatives to progress participatory budgeting, and the reclamation of our democratic heritage through documentation of the Penang Hartal 1967 and running the popular Democracy-heritage Tour.

The festival also celebrated Human Rights Day with the launch of the ground-breaking Penang Local Democracy Report 2014, charting the achievements and challenges with regard to local democracy in Penang. SUARAM hopes this will become an annual Report combining input from many different groups

Photo: Participants conducting a mock state assembly debate as part of the Penang Youth Parliament programme during the Penang Local Democracy Festival. The programme also included a 5-day intensive workshop on understanding good governance.

13. ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum

The ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (APF) is the largest conference of civil society organizations in ASEAN.

It serves as a critical platform for civil society in ASEAN to collectively deliberate about the challenges faced as a region, especially in promoting peoples participation in good governance and promotion and protection of human rights at the local and regional levels.

The APF will be held in April 2015 in Malaysia. SUARAM is the co-chairperson and secretariat for the APF in 2015. It facilitates and convenes the National and Regional Organizing Committees in strategizing and planning for APF’s collective advocacy strategies and plans.

Photo: Hosting the APF regional consultation meeting in December

14. Moving towards sustainable funding

Realizing the increasing difficulty for NGOs to obtain grant funding, SUARAM launched its public annual donor programme as part of its long term plan to achieve financial sustainability.

Donors can pledge to sponsor RM500, RM1,000, RM2,000 or any other amount annually to SUARAM.

Support SUARAM by signing up as an annual donor. Click here for more information.



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