Subject: Malaysian activists win E.Timor suit
Dec 22, 2009
M'sia activists win E.Timor suit
KUALA LUMPUR - THE Malaysian High Court on Tuesday ordered the government to compensate 29 rights activists for wrongful detention over a controversial gathering to discuss East Timor 13 years ago.
The court awarded a total of RM870,000 (S$355,000) to the activists, who were held by police in the Malaysian capital for up to six days.
In 1996, they had planned to host the Second Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor to discuss the troubled territory's struggle for independence from Indonesia and the human rights abuses there.
'The amount is sufficient to compensate the suffering that you endured during the detention,' judge Wan Adnan Muhamad said in his verdict.
The judge awarded RM30,000 to each of the activists. Malaysia had opposed to the 1996 conference, saying it would harm bilateral ties with its neighbour Indonesia.
As the meeting was about to begin in a hotel, 400 people led by the ruling United Malays National Organisation's (Umno) leaders broke down the conference hall doors, flung chairs and abused the participants, the court was told. Police later moved in to arrest more than 100 people, including journalists, while 40 foreign participants were deported. The activists later filed the suit to claim damages for their mistreatment during the arrest and detention. -- AFP
December 24, 2009
Malaysia ordered to compensate wrongly detained activists
The Malaysian High Court has awarded compensation to 29 activists who were wrongfully detained in Malaysia 13 years ago. The group were part of a regional conference, held in the Malaysian capital in 1996, to discuss East Timor's struggle for independence. The forum was attacked by 400 people led by the ruling UMNO party, and police arrested more than 100 people. Tian Chua organised the conference, and is one of the activists who the government has been ordered to pay compensation. He's now an opposition MP and says the High Court's decision is recognition the government's actions were an act of violence.
Presenter: Christine Webster
Speakers: Tian Chua, Malaysian Opposition MP
WEBSTER: Malaysia's High Court has found 29 activists who gathered for a regional meeting to discuss East Timor's struggle for independence from Indonesia were wrongly detained by police for six days. The activists share a total of 250,000 US dollars in compensation. Tian Chua says the government at the time opposed the 1996 conference because it didn't want to threaten its ties with Indonesia.
CHUA: I think it's a vindication not so much receiving the compensation, but the recognition by the judiciary that the actions by the ruling parties in breaking down the East Timor conference was an act of violence, it was wrong we believe, and more importantly our efforts in fighting for not only the liberation of East Timor, but asserting the right to freedom of speech and the right for us to assemble and to show solidarity with human rights in other countries has been recognised.
WEBSTER: The detention was for six days, was there ill treatment of the activists by the police involved?
CHUA: Well we had been put into a very atrocious environment in the lock-up. For example the cells had been very crowded and we did not have clean water, and there was various inconveniences that had been caused by the detention. I think the question is not so much the ill treatment as such, as I think we can endure that, the whole question was at the time that there was a total suppression of any public discourse on the plight and crisis in East Timor, despite we were neighbours. Any attempt to raise issues on the problem of East Timor has been suppressed heavy-handedly, and that was the context that we were fighting against.
WEBSTER: The incident happened quite a number of years ago now, why did it take so long to actually get compensation?
CHUA: Well this probably just shows how slowly our judiciary rectified itself, and this is also part of a long process where Malaysia itself is still undergoing the process of democratisation. The 1996 incident was a prelude to a series of major social transformation in Southeast Asia.
WEBSTER: Why was the second Asia Pacific conference on East Timor so controversial to the ruling UMNO Party at the time?
CHUA: Well the entire region at the time was run by military dictatorships and autocratic leaders like Dr Mahathir. They felt that it was part of their responsibility and all we can say solidarity to affect each other. And Malaysia did not want to create any diplomatic tension with Indonesia.
WEBSTER: Do you feel that the High Court could have made more rulings or given you more recognition of what you actually, the activists suffered?
CHUA: Yes we were hoping for more powerful position of the High Court. However it seems that the judiciary system it's a cautious position, while recognising the abuses by the police, the court didn't want to admit that there was a government conspiracy.
29 Apcet participants awarded RM30,000 damages each
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 22 (Bernama) -- The High Court here today ordered the police and the Malaysian government to pay RM30,000 in damages each to 29 participants of the Asia Pacific Conference On East Timor II (Apcet) in 1996.
Justice Datuk Wan Adnan @ Addinan Muhamad awarded the damages for the hardship that they underwent while under 24-hour detention from Nov 9 to 10, 1996.
Wan Adnan, who is now a Court of Appeal judge, said the amount was adequate because the damages was not a reward but a compensation for the hardship that they suffered.
He said, however, that the police action in detaining them at the conference venue was not wrong as the police were carrying out their duty to maintain security and ensure that there was no trouble.
He also ordered the police and the government to pay costs and interest at eight per cent per annum from the date of the filing of the suit on Nov 9, 1998, until the full settlement of the case.
However, he did not allow the claims by the 29 for exemplary, exacerbated and special damages because they did not provide documentary proof and only gave oral evidence on that.
The 29 included Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) information chief Chua Tian Chang, PKR deputy president Dr Syed Hussein Ali, Malaysiakini chief executive officer J.Premesh Chandran, Malaysian Trades Union congress (MTUC) president Syed Shahir Syed Mohamad and lawyer R.Sivarasa.
They named former Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Ismail Che' Ros, former Dang Wangi OCPD Zainal Abidin Ali, investigating officer Chief Insp Tengku Hamzah Tengku Abdullah and the government as defendants.
In their statement of claim they said they were detained by police while dispersing members of a group calling itself Barisan Bertindak Rakyat Malaysia (BBRM) who were causing a disturbance at the Apcet.
They claimed that the BBRM members had shouted obscenities at the Apcet participants who included foreigners.
They also claimed that the police had failed and neglected to act to calm the situation and defuse the commotion.
In their statement of defence, the defandants said that the detantion was to calm the situation at the scene of the incident.