Just received the below email/information from SUARAM:


The winners of SUARAM’s human rights award this year were determined by a panel of judges comprised of notable human rights activists, namely former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee Irene Xavier, Colin Nicholas of Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC), Masjaliza Hamzah of Sisters in Islam (SIS), and Yap Swee Seng, the Executive Director of Suaram.

6 nominations were received for the award:

1. Komuniti Kampung Chang Sungai Gepai, Bidor, Perak

2. Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF)

3. Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH)

4. Bar Council Human Rights Committee

5. The Urban Settlers of Kg Berembang

6. The Penans of Ulu Baram

Out of the 6 nominees, the panel decided to present the SUARAM Human Rights Award 2008 to 2 groups, one a fairly-new mass-based movement and the other a long-struggling community. This year’s joint-winners are the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) and the Penans of Ulu Baram, Sarawak.

The panel of judges’ justifications for the decision to give the award to HINDRAF and the Penans of Ulu Baram are as follows:

Within a short period of time, HINDRAF had successfully captivated, mobilised and empowered vast numbers of Malaysians of Indian ethnic origin to struggle against very powerful interests and forces.

There is also no denying that HINDRAF has made a big impact on the Malaysian political scene in 2008 and its rise has in fact surprised and captured the imagination of many Malaysians, and has also given inspiration to others.

The panel of judges was also impressed by the way HINDRAF contextualised the current situation by bringing in colonial history, and demonstrating how, even after 50 years of Merdeka, the Indian community have continued to be marginalised and disenfranchised.

But perhaps the greatest success of HINDRAF is the manner in which it has been able to embolden and give courage to a community that was seen as being fearful of the powers-that-be and unwilling to demand for change. The unleashing of the fear that shackled the community previously has led to ramifications in the changed political climate today.

The success of HINDRAF can perhaps be seen in the fear it has caused in the eyes of the government, to the extent that it detained five of its leaders under the ISA and has outlawed the organisation.

The other joint-winner of the Human Rights Award this year are the Penans of Ulu Baram in Sarawak. They have been defending their traditional lands from encroachment, especially by loggers, since the early 1980s.

The violations faced by the Penans are extreme and sometimes violent. They faced threats, killings, rapes, disappearances and hardship in their daily survival. They have struggled against very powerful forces representing the collusion of political powers, business, police, military, timber companies and oil palm plantations. They have also faced police biasedness and harassment.

The Penans are also very isolated physically and politically. Local media exposure about them is confined, censored and biased, especially in Sarawak.

The Penan’s struggle has been long, persistent and often lonely. While the government tries to paint the struggle as one that is foreign-NGOs driven, the fact is the Penan struggle was there even before some of the foreign NGOs were established.

The root cause of the Penan issue is the non-recognition of their native customary rights over their traditional lands. This was the issue 30 years ago, and it is still the main issue today. And as long as the issue of land rights remain, the Penans have struggle against all odds and have vowed to continue to struggle until justice and human rights are attained.

3 responses »

  1. motherchell says:

    In actual fact -this years Hindraf and Penans HR award goes to Suaram . Suram monitors HR in Malaysia ridding piggy back on 50cc Honda mopeds. –You know you meet the nicest people on a Honda!!

  2. haha says:

    Good Joke there:


    This is a highly classified position. It is hard to fill, and there’s a lot of testing and background checks involved before you can even be considered for the position. After sending some applicants through the background checks, training and testing, they narrowed the possible choices down to 2 men and a woman, but only one position was available.

    The day came for the final test to see which person would get the extremely secretive job. The PM, Abdullah who is administering the test took the first man, Hamid to a large metal door and handed him a gun. “We must know that you will follow your instructions no matter what the circumstances”, he explained. “Inside this room, you will find your wife sitting in a chair. Take this gun and kill her.”

    The gutless Hamid got a shocked look on his face and said “You can’t be serious! I could never shoot my own wife! I only know how to issue detention orders!”

    “Well”, says Abdullah, “you’re definitely not the right man for this job then.”

    So he brings the second man, Toyo to the same door and hand him a gun. “I must know that you will follow instructions no matter what the circumstances”, he explained to Toyo. “Inside you will find your wife sitting in a chair. Take this gun and kill her.”

    Toyo looked a bit shocked, but nevertheless took the gun and went into the room. All was quiet for about 5 minutes, and then the door opened. Toyo came out of the room with tears in his eyes. “I tried to shoot her; I just couldn’t pull the trigger and shoot my wife. All the Balkis money is with her. I guess I’m not the right man for the job. ”

    “No” Abdullah replied, “You don’t have what it takes. Take your wife and go home, and enjoy all the money that you robbed from the poor!”

    Now down to Rosmah left to be tested. Again he leads her to the same door to the same room and hands Rosmah the same gun. “I must be sure that you will follow instructions no matter what the circumstances. This is your final test. Inside, you will find your husband, Najib sitting in a chair. Take this gun and kill him.”

    Rosmah took the gun and opened the door. Before the door even closed all the way, Abdullah heard the gun start firing. One shot after another for 13 shots. Then all hell broke loose in the room. Abdullah heard screaming, crashing, banging on the walls. This went on for several minutes, and then all went quiet.

    The door opened slowly, and there stood Rosmah. She wiped the sweat from her brow and said “You didn’t tell me the gun was loaded with blanks! I had to beat that fellow to death with the chair!”


  3. motherchell says:

    ha ha-!– glad you enjoyed Rosmah at sjs ! ways to expose all the imbeciles and get them to bite the dust !
    Suaram is a toothless tiger — ! we have to sink in our claws in any which way we can united !!

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