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PUBLISHED: Aug 24, 2014 7:00am

‘Rights of homeless dependent on state’


Michael Murty

Lawyers for Liberty says human rights and law related to each other because the law has been put in place to set the standard of behaviour, which if not adhered to, risked sanctions.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 24, 2014:

Lawyer for Liberty spokesperson Michelle Yesudas said law was “fundamentally unequal” because it was based on various variables.

Citing the attempt to criminalise the homeless in Kuala Lumpur, as an example, Michelle said the issue showed how the rights of the homeless was dependent on the state and the leaders that govern the country.

In July, Federal Territories minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor stirred controversy when he announced that soup kitchens within a 2km radius of Lot 10 in Bukit Bintang would be banned from operating after the Hari Raya celebrations.

The ban has since been lifted.

He had also threatened to fine generous Malaysians for giving money to beggars.

Michelle said the issue also raised other questions as well as stereotypes.

“Many people were reluctant to dive into it because they didn’t know how to interact with the homeless.

“It shows us how unequal our society really is, or how they view people with different stereotypes.”

Meanwhile on the ongoing debate about human rights lawyer Edmund Bon representing Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim in a suit against the Malaysia Insider, Michelle said that the whole thing got “blown out of proportion and out of context” in the argument on Twitter.

The Selangor Menteri Besar is suing the portal for defamation.

She reiterated that human rights lawyers never questioned his rights as a lawyer, but his principles as a human rights activist.

Michelle explained that human rights and law related to each other because the law was in place to set the standard of behaviour, which if not adhered to, risked sanctions.

The country’s laws, she said, depended on the government of the day who sets it and was a reflection of the leaders in power and their personal stereotypes.

“For instance, with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who seemed very human rights friendly when he declared he was getting rid of all our draconian laws.

“Unfortunately he replaces the ones he abolished with similar laws that still criminalizes you.”

Michelle said it was very obvious that the law was favourable to the government, citing the times opposition politicians were hauled up under the Sedition Act, yet certain individuals got away scot free.

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“If there are quarters which say there’s restriction on expression of opinions and views, the RoS can provide empirical evidence that the registered organisations are proof that the government gives such freedom. There is freedom of speech and movement; you can be as vociferous as you want so long as you do not threaten public order. Go on and gather as many members as you want so long as you do not touch on sensitive matters and violate the law, including the Sedition Act.”

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi saying the government has never restricted freedom of speech, pointing out that 116,000 organisations were registered with the Registrar of Societies (RoS).


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