Suaram highlights M'sian human rights issues in UK

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Suaram conducted recently a four day mission to the United Kingdom to draw the attention of the international community to Malaysia's poor track record on human rights, corruption and electoral fraud in the lead up to GE13.

Suaram Director Cynthia Gabriel participated in a UK Parliamentary Meeting on Malaysia and conducted a series of meetings with the UK Foreign Office, Commonwealth Human Rights Department, Transparency International, and NGO Article 19 and a number of UK dailies.

She also spoke at an interactive dialogue session with students at the London School of Economics and a fundraising lunch with overseas Malaysians in aid of Suaram.

The parliamentary briefing held in the House of Commons was aimed at highlighting a broad range of Malaysian human rights, corruption and electoral fraud issues in the wake of a looming general election, to UK MPs and Lords.

The session was chaired by Mr Tom Greatrex, Labour MP and shadow energy minister, who is a member of the UK Parliamentary Group on Malaysia.

Gabriel spoke on 'Malaysia: Human rights, corruption and the Scorpene submarine scandal', whilst Bersih Chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan spoke via Skype on ' The urgent need for electoral reform in Malaysia'.

Investigative journalist and Sarawak Report author, Clare Rewcastle-Brown, spoke on 'Fighting corruption, environmental devastation human rights abuses in Sarawak'.

Videoclips of the government sponsored clampdown and police brutality during the Bersih 3.0 rally in April 2012 were also screened.

Also present was Sir Tim Lankester, author of a recent book on the Pergau dam scandal entitled ‘The Politics and Economics of Britain's Foreign Aid: The Pergau Dam Affair'.

He noted that "The media in Malaysia is thoroughly repressed" and

"Malaysia has a lot to learn from emerging and progressive democracies like Indonesia".

Government representatives from the UK Foreign Office came out strongly in support of human rights in Malaysia, and stated that regular government briefings between the UK and Malaysian government were already taking place, particularly in the lead up to the general election and Malaysia's universal periodic review at the United Nations in September this year.

Over the last three decades, Malaysia has been plagued by issues of spiraling corruption, authoritarian rule, poor governance, race politics and worsening human rights violations.

Concerns about these matters and vote rigging have brought hundreds of thousands of Malaysians onto the streets, most recently on Jan 12 when over 250,000 ordinary citizens peacefully demonstrated for an end to widespread corruption, human rights abuses and electoral fraud.

Suaram is therefore urging the UK government to take account of these serious issues as it embarks on what has been promoted as a new, far closer trading relationship.

Malaysia has a long history of defence trading with the UK.

In 1994, the Malaysian government was at the centre of the UK's biggest ‘aid for arms' scandal, the Pergau dam affair, where £234 million in UK aid was illegally linked to a major arms deal.

Over the last year, the British Government has initiated a significant new drive to strengthen ties with the current Malaysian government and to increase trade.

In April 2012, Prime Minister David Cameron led a UK delegation of cabinet ministers, members of Parliament and business leaders to Malaysia where bilateral talks were held with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Cameron declared:

"This is the first time that a British Prime Minister has come to Malaysia in almost 20 years.

"It has been a period, as you have charitably put it Prime Minister, of benign neglect, and I am determined to put that right.

"So, my message today is very simple: the era of benign neglect is over.

"Britain is back: back to do business with Malaysia, back to build our partnership on vital global issues.

"We started that conversation in Downing Street with your visit, we've continued it today, and it is just the start of a much refreshed and reinvigorated relationship that we both want to see between our two countries."

Suaram urged the UK government to ensure it remains transparent in its trade agreements and sends urgent representations to the Malaysian government calling on Najib to implement meaningful electoral reform and invite independent observers to observe GE13.

Suaram also called on the UK government to condemn the unacceptable human rights violations and government corruption taking place in Malaysia and stop the intimidation and harassment of democracy activists, human rights defenders and whistle blowers.

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