‘Keluarga Malaysia (Malaysian Family) is just make-believe if enforced disappearances not investigated’ – Human rights groups

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Putrajaya’s “Keluarga Malaysia (Malaysian Family)” concept is nothing more than just make-believe considering its lackadaisical attitude in bringing justice to cases of enforced disappearance, civil rights groups said ahead of the country’s 65th Independence Day tomorrow.

In a joint statement with Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (CAGED), both groups noted that the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances falls on the eve of National Day, and is a reminder of the government’s half-heartedness with such cases.

The groups urged the government to impose better exercises to combat and investigate such crimes.

Human rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) bemoaned how findings from notable cases of enforced disappearances have yet to receive a response from the authorities.

“August 31 is meant to serve as an annual day of rejoicing over the gaining of autonomy and freedom from British rule,” the statement signed by Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamay said.

“However, the eve of the 31st is now an annual day to weep over the implicit acceptance by the Malaysian government that enforced disappearance is not a crime.”

The groups also pressed the government to reveal the findings of a task report established in June 2019, taking into account the grief of the victim’s families over not knowing what happened to their loved ones.

The task force had been formed then to reinvestigate the disappearances of pastor Raymond Koh and activist Amri Che Mat, who went missing in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

“The victim’s families are being denied knowledge of the truth about what happened to their loved ones. They have no closure. They are suspended in a state of unknowing,” Suaram and CAGED said.

They also mentioned that thorough investigations by the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) led to the conclusion that Koh, Amri, and a kidnapped couple from 2017—pastor Joshua Hilmy and wife Ruth Sitepu—were all victims of enforced disappearances.

In 2019, Suhakam accused the police of carrying out the kidnapping. They said Pastor Koh and others had been ‘abducted by State agents, namely the Special Branch of the Royal Malaysia Police.

The commission’s results were announced in April 2019 for Koh and Amri’s cases while findings on Joshua and Ruth’s cases were released in April this year.

They also mentioned that thorough investigations by the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) led to the conclusion that Koh, Amri, and a kidnapped couple from 2017—pastor Joshua Hilmy and wife Ruth Sitepu—were all victims of enforced disappearances.

The commission’s results were announced in April 2019 for Koh and Amri’s cases while findings on Joshua and Ruth’s cases were released in April this year.

As a result, the organizations pressed the government to create and publish an action plan with due dates to update the public on the status of putting Suhakam’s recommendations into practice.

They said that such initiatives should include actions to set up institutional and standard operating procedures for looking into disappearances, kidnappings, and missing persons.

It also urged the government to start ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, stating that action must be taken to ensure that authorities respect the right to freedom of religion under Article 11(1) of the federal constitution.