On Valentine’s Day, 14.2.09, the Malaysian Law Students Alliance (MALSA) together with the Bar Council co-organised a Human Rights Forum to raise human rights awareness due to the many violations of fundamental human rights that have been happening in the country.
The forum took off at 2.30 pm at the Bar Council Auditorium. There were three topics discussed: Human Rights Theory and Reality, Competing Interests – Individual rights vs. State rights: Which should Prevail? and Police Powers: Powers to stop, search and seize (with particular reference to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984).
Shanmuga Kanesalingam presented his views on the second topic, and for the third we had Saha Deva and Roger Chan teaming up to give us an analytical view of the wide discretionary powers available to the police. We were taken to the new s28A of the Criminal Procedure Code, and comparisons were made with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 of England and Wales.
Participation from the floor was good. The audience numbering some 35 people were made up from different walks of life from students to parents. They were enthusiastic and took part in the interactive sessions among others, where the participants were required to agree, disagree or were to state that they were unsure about controversial statements and positions on human rights. They were not afraid to voice their views and opinions, as well as share their ideas. It was a two-way learning process throughout.
Human rights as we know it to be is not a “Western” concept inapplicable to “Eastern” culture and practices. It is to be applied across the board in all countries that adhere to the principles of democracy. As President Barack Obama promises to close Guantanamo Bay, Kamunting and Simpang Renggam should be no exceptions.
Further, there is a greater need for rights enshrined in the Constitution to be guaranteed and protected, and for the judiciary to remain impartial and independent. As we move into the 21st-century and towards a developed nation status by 2020, there’s an even greater need for the Constitution to be amended to encompass more rights as may be found in the UDHR.
To some this may have been a very small step but everything starts small. After all, a person’s worth is not measured by the distance between his head and his feet but his head to the sky.