Suhakam: Check Rela’s powers

Suhakam: Check Rela’s powers

Malaysiakinim Bede Hong | Aug 17, 07

The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) does not support an increase in enforcement powers for the volunteer security corp Rela, saying it would result in indiscriminate arrests against refugees in the country.
Suhakam commissioner N Siva Subramaniam also said Rela’s raids have created ill-repute for its members, whom he described as insensitive to human and civil rights.

“There’s no point in trying to get the message across to them on what the public thinks of them and what our Asean neighbours think of them,” he told a forum organised by the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall last night.

“They have become defensive at times, even when you tell them to train their people and to educate them on human rights,” he added.

The volunteer corp has over 480,000 members in the country. Serving as an auxiliary enforcement unit, Rela also carries out operations to round up illegal immigrants.

Human rights watchgroups, including Suhakam, have criticised Rela for indiscriminate arrests and human rights violations during its operations.

A Private Member’s Bill is expected to be tabled in the next Parliament sitting for the formation of a Rela department under the Home Ministry. The bill will also broaden the enforcement capability of Rela to assist the Immigration Department.

Original purpose

Siva said Rela’s responsibilities have been expanded beyond its original purpose and said there is lack of training for its officers.

“Their job was to take care of weddings and to take care of guests and the parking of cars. Their treatment of refugees is terrible … It shows that there’s something wrong with Malaysians when you (see them) hit them (the refugees),” he said.

Malaysia has not ratified the United Nations convention on refugees, thus recognising all refugees as illegal aliens. Suhakam estimates that there are 1.9 million migrant workers and refugees in the country.

Meanwhile, migrant workers rights group Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez said the government must reform the police and Immigration Department.

“Because they (migrant workers) are weak, the government has used them as scapegoats to explain the rise in crime,” she said.

She also claimed there is rampant corruption along the borders of Thailand and Malaysia, where human traffickers work in cohorts with immigration officers to bring in thousands of workers every week.

About 40 people attended the forum. Despite being invited, no representative from Rela turned up.

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