Three issues of importance

It’s a pity that the case of the “enforced disappearance” of two Malaysian citizens has been overshadowed by equally important issues such as the Rome Statute ratification, the Johor-Putrajaya tensions and the amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution.

No doubt Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said that a new investigation will be launched after the current Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun, who was the head of Special Branch when Pastor Raymond Koh and activist Amri Che Mat were abducted, steps down next month.

Suhakam (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia) implicated “state agents”, particularly the Special Branch, for carrying out the abductions which the commission has labelled as “enforced disappearances”.

The investigation based on Suhakam’s findings after its 18-month public enquiry is a much-welcomed relief! With other issues taking centre stage now, it is hoped that there would be no further delay in launching the investigation in finding out who was or were behind the “enforced disappearances”.

This is an urgent issue as it involves two lives. Malaysians want immediate answers to still unanswered questions. First and foremost is the question: Are they still alive? If they are, they should be released to their respective families.

Then, we want to know who gave the directive for the abductions and on what grounds? Was it Mohamad Fuzi? Did he make the decision based on reports filed by his staff? How did they get the information on these two men? Were they tipped off and if so by whom? Or, were vested interests involved and those vested interests prodded Mohamad Fuzi or somebody else in Special Branch to act?

Frankly, these questions and many more can be immediately answered if the Home Minister will just call up Mohamad Fuzi to explain and then provide all the answers at a press conference. If that isn’t feasible, then, there is no choice but to wait for an official investigation, which must take place immediately.

This is not an issue that can wait until an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) is set up. It has to be resolved immediately because leaving it unaddressed is, in fact, closing an eye to state-sponsored abductions or terrorism. That is totally unacceptable!

Reach out to opposition MPs

I mentioned in my first paragraph the Rome Statute ratification, the Johor-Putrajaya tensions and the amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution. Much has been written on them and I won’t go into the details as these issues are extensively covered in the media.

I wonder though if the real issue is not the laws but the lack of engagement between Putrajaya and vested interests. Unfortunately, where the rulers are concerned, engagement can only occur within the confines of the law. The running of the country and the state are only undertaken by elected officials. That needs to be respected because it is the will of the people. Deferring to the rulers only takes place as the law allows it.

A lack of engagement, perhaps, was the reason why the Pakatan Harapan government failed to get a two-thirds majority to pass the amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution to give Sabah and Sarawak an equal footing with Peninsular Malaysia in accordance with the spirit of Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

It would be good for the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to take note of what the opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) are saying. They are not against the bill. They abstained. Some said it was because of PH’s arrogance, others because it lacked sincerity and Putrajaya failed to engage the Sabah and Sarawak state assemblies.

PH was only 10 short of 148 votes of the 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat to make a two-thirds majority. If PH does not have a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat, it should start engaging lawmakers in the opposition to support important bills such as the amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution.

PH lawmakers, perhaps, should reach out to opposition MPs and present to them a rational case based on facts and figures to clear whatever suspicions they may have of the government initiative. The power of conviction of the benefits of the bill should be enough to convert enough opposition MPs to give a two-thirds majority.

The bill may be presented again at a later date. Hopefully, PH would work hard to deliver a victory to the people of Sabah and Sarawak then.

 

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