KUALA LUMPUR: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has postponed its Human Rights Day celebration to tomorrow following police advice over potential security risks.
Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said he spoke with Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun after receiving a letter from the police to put off its gathering.
The postponement was also done on the advice of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The Prime Minister was to have been the chief guest at the event in Padang Timur, Petaling Jaya.
Razali announced the postponement on the eve of the anti-Icerd (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) gathering at Dataran Merdeka in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
The rally is aimed at celebrating the non-ratification of the United Nations covenant.
The rally will begin at 2pm and end at 6pm on the same day.
Suhakam’s gathering was originally scheduled to start at 9am and end at 3pm.
“We received a letter from the police on Thursday night, informing us of the security risks.
“I spoke to the IGP today (Friday) and he endorsed this view,” Razali said at a press conference here, adding that the police did not explain what the risks were.
Razali said police also advised the Prime Minister on the risks and he raised the matter at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.
“The Prime Minister then decided that it would be good if he didn’t come for the celebration and for us to postpone it.
“We have to take this into account as he is Prime Minister,” Razali said.
However, he also said Suhakam was “disappointed and annoyed” that security risks were used as the reason for postponing the event.
“This is New Malaysia and we don’t have to hear such things (as security risks),” he added.
He said Dr Mahathir would still be able to attend Suhakam’s celebration tomorrow despite the short notice.
Asked if the postponement would be construed as Suhakam being bullied by groups protesting Icerd, Commissioner Jerald Joseph, who was also present at the press conference, said: “No. Suhakam is not giving them the streets but to defend their right to go to the streets.”
However, he said the postponement of Suhakam’s event should be a lesson for the Pakatan Harapan government.
“We are hoping the Cabinet will learn that different groups should be allowed to gather peacefully.
“The police must be far more prepared and should not use the old excuse of security to ask one group to stand down.
“This is New Malaysia and we want a new narrative,” he added.
Lawyer and activist Siti Kassim, who was also present, expressed her disappointment.
She pointed out that under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, the police should let Suhakam go ahead with its celebration as it was planned even before the anti-Icerd rally.
“The Pakatan government is saying they are following the rule of law, but now we are facing this and they are not following the Peaceful Assembly Act,” she said.