Putrajaya’s SUARAM probe sparks civil society activism


(The Malaysian Insider) – Outrage at Putrajaya’s clampdown on Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) appears to have given a major boost to civil society activism here, likely affecting the Najib government’s bid for votes from middle Malaysia ahead of an election expected soon.

The human rights watchdog has been instrumental in the French probe on Malaysia’s multibillion ringgit purchase of two Scorpene submarines, a high-profile scandal that many believe will unearth incriminating evidence against top government officials here. 

Global rights group Amnesty International had yesterday raised suspicion over the timing of the government’s sudden interest in SUARAM’s operations and funding sources, saying the probe was opened only four weeks after the organisation revealed documents showing a close associate to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had allegedly sold Malaysian naval secrets to the French. 

A new citizen group has now sprouted, joining the burgeoning of other civil society movements nationwide in a campaign to help SUARAM keep the Scorpene scandal in the limelight. 

Calling themselves the “Scorpene Never Dies” Action Team, the group of youths and “concerned citizens” has demanded that the Najib administration stop its “politically-motivated” investigation against SUARAM. 

Team coordinator Ng Yap Hwa said this was a poignant moment for Malaysians as their failure to band together to protect SUARAM would only encourage the government to continue to quell public dissent. 

“We feel we need to stand by Suaram in this critical time. 

“If we as citizens don’t rally behind a human rights defender, the government could easily clamp down… no more people can stand by us in the future,” he said. 

The team is organising a one-hour candlelight vigil next Tuesday at the historic Merdeka Square in the city centre here where several other protests fuelled by civil society activism have taken place recently. 

The team has also urged Malaysians nationwide to hold simultaneous events next week to record their disdain for the alleged harassment against SUARAM. 

Ng said that if members of the public keep silent now, “we will be the next (victim)” one day. 

He said that to “defend Suaram and to stand by Suaram” is for everyone’s benefit. 

Ng added that the team would not be applying for a police permit for its 8pm event at the historic Merdeka square, as it was every individual’s “constitutional right” to have a peaceful assembly. 

“Let us spread the Scorpene submarines issue far and wide to express our solidarity with the human rights defender, thereby warning the government that even if it could keep down SUARAM, the Scorpene submarines issue would never die and we would carry on the struggle to uncover the truth of the Scorpenes scandal and uphold justice for Altantuya,” the group said in a statement.

Read more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/putrajayas-suaram-probe-sparks-civil-society-activism/