KUALA LUMPUR: Dec 9, 2008 By SHAILA KOSHY
The outlawed Hindraf and the Penans of Ulu Baram in Sarawak were jointly awarded Suaram’s Human Rights Award 2008 on Tuesday.
A panel of judges selected the two from six nominations.
According to the judges, Hindraf had “captivated, mobilised and empowered vast numbers of Malaysians of Indian ethnic origin to struggle against very powerful interests and forces” in a short space of time.
Suaram said Hindraf’s success could perhaps be seen “in the fear it has caused in the eyes of the Government, to the extent it detained five of its leaders under the ISA and outlawed the organisation.”
The judges said the Penans had been defending their traditional lands from encroachment since the early 1980s.
“They faced threats, killings, rapes, disappearances and hardship in their daily survival, and have struggled against very powerful forces.”
Earlier, Suaram released its 2008 Human Rights in Malaysia report at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall here, which said freedom of expression had been severely repressed in 2008.
Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng told reporters it was no surprise Malaysia fell from 124 place in 2007 to 132 place this year out of 195 countries in the ranking of press freedom.