Drop charges against Heidy Quah — 79 organisations and 67 individuals

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JULY 27 — We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Heidy Quah, the co-founder of Refuge for The Refugees. Heidy was charged this morning under section 233 (1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) for a June 2020 Facebook post in which she describes conditions in one of Malaysia’s immigration detention centres.

In this Facebook post, Heidy shared the experience of a woman who was detained at an immigration detention centre in 2018 with her newborn baby. Her writing also exposed allegedly horrific conditions in the immigration detention centres, including abuse, and unsafe and unhygienic conditions for women and children. Her Facebook post echoed similar concerns over immigration detention centres by Suhakam and human rights organisations over many years. Despite this, Heidy received a barrage of hate comments and harassments, including threats to her safety.

A credible and accountable action by the government would have been to initiate an independent investigation on potential mismanagement, ill-treatment or abuse of power within and in relation to immigration detention centres. Instead, the authorities have chosen to pursue those who expose these wrongdoings or violations. On July 7, 2020, Heidy was summoned to Putrajaya District police headquarters for investigation and her phone was confiscated.

Laws such as Section 233 of the CMA must be repealed. They violate the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under the Federal Constitution and a fundamental human right. The broad and vague wording of section 233 opens room for abuse: it has been repeatedly and selectively enforced, often to silence criticism against the government.

In the past year, we have seen artists, activists and other human rights defenders harassed, persecuted and prosecuted for asking questions of public interest, be it torture and deaths in custody, corruption or the treatment of migrants and refugees.

A general view of the Immigration Detention Centre at Bukit Jalil May 25, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
A general view of the Immigration Detention Centre at Bukit Jalil May 25, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

Charging Heidy for a Facebook post a year after it was first shared also raises questions about the government’s intention and motivation against an activist whose organisation has been actively providing life-saving food and basic aid to communities that have little support to depend on.

The information in Heidy’s Facebook post is validated in Suhakam’s Annual Reports. In 2018, Suhakam described conditions in immigration detention centres as “cramped, unsanitary, poorly maintained, and lacking in basic facilities such as clean water and food.” During visits to immigration depots in 2018, Suhakam raised myriad concerns, including poor hygiene and sanitary conditions, poor access to medical treatment, inappropriate and unsafe conditions for new mothers and their babies, and lack of, or insufficient provision of sanitary pads to women.

Suhakam has continued to consistently document extremely poor conditions in immigration detention centres; these conditions continue to pose serious risks to the physical health and

well-being of women, men and children, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead of addressing these through meaningful reforms, the government has chosen to silence those who raise concerns about the conditions in immigration detention centres.

The alleged mistreatment and abuse of power in immigration detention centres, as documented in various reports, is inhumane and against international norms and standards. Allegations of mistreatment, abuse and harm within immigration detention centres have been documented in various reports over decades. Yet, the government has chosen repeatedly to punish whistleblowers, instead of working with urgency to comply with fundamental human rights standards and norms. We seek to remind the government that it has a duty to protect the basic human rights of all peoples within Malaysia, including the right to free expression, and the right to be free from violence — a foundational obligation at all times, but especially now as it is vying for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

In this regard, we demand that the government:

  1. Drop all charges against Heidy Quah for exercising her Constitutional right to freedom of expression;
  2. Initiate an independent and transparent inquiry into possible mismanagement, ill-treatment or abuse of power in all immigration detention centres, and ensure findings are shared with the public;
  3. Stop all forms of intimidation and threats against human rights defenders and whistleblowers for exercising their rights and publishing their opinions;
  4. Enter into moratorium on the use of Section 233 of CMA until it is reviewed and repealed;
  5. Stop the arbitrary arrest and immigration detention of refugees and migrants, and ensure independent monitoring of all immigration detention centres;
  6. Fulfil its international human rights obligations, including in implementing the Concluding Observations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The current prosecution against Heidy Quah is unacceptable. Telling the truth should not be a crime. Letting harm happen, especially to the vulnerable, is the real violence.

The full list of endorsements are:

Endorsed by

1. 111 Initiative

2. Advocates for Non-Discrimination and Access to Knowledge (ANAK)

3. Agora Society Malaysia

4. Al-Hasan Volunteer Network

5. Al-Ikhlas Hope Society

6. Aliran

7. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)

8. ALTSEAN-Burma

9. Amnesty International Malaysia

10. Asia Community Service

11. Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)

12. Asylum Access Malaysia

13. Beyond Borders Malaysia

14. Carefugees

15. Caremongering Malaysia

16. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)

17. Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS (CERiA) at Universiti Malaya

18. Challenger Malaysia

19. Childline Foundation

20. Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (CAGED)

21. CIVICUS

22. Demokrat Kebangsaan

23. Dewan Muda Malaysia

24. End CSEC Network Malaysia

25. Family Frontiers Malaysia

26. Federation of Reproductive Health Associations, Malaysia (FRHAM)

27. Freedom Film Network

28. GERAK (Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia)

29. Gerakan Media Merdeka(GERAMM)

30. Hope For Pakistani Refugees

31. International Detention Coalition

32. Justice For Sisters

33. Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation

34. Klinik Amal Muhajir

35. KongsiKL

36. KRYSS Network

37. Little Steps Charity Organisation

38. Majlis Kebajikan Kanak-Kanak Malaysia

39. Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity (MAJU)

40. MISI: Solidariti

41. Monsters Among Us: Youth Advocates

42. NESA

43. New Student Movement Alliance of Malaysia (Nesa)

44. North South Initiative

45. Our Student Headspace Movement

46. Our True Colors (OTC)

47. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)

48. Persatuan Pemangkin Pendidikan Selangor (MYER Movement)

49. Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (Proham)

50. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)

51. Pertubuhan Kebajikan READ

52. Prison Fellowship Malaysia Sabah

53. Project MK

54. Projek #BangsaMalaysia

55. Projek Wawasan Rakyat (POWR)

56. ReformArtsi

57. Refugee Emergency Fund (REF)

58. Rimbun Dahan

59. Rohingya Education Development Society

60. Save Rivers

61. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)

62. Selangor Anti-Human Trafficking Council

63. Siring Siring Production

64. Sisters In Islam (SIS)

65. Student Led Actions Towards Evidence Based Policies (SLED)

66. Study Hub Asia Sdn Bhd

67. SUARAM

68. Tenaganita

69. The Instant Café Theatre Company

70. The Oi! Community

71. Tiny Gold Hearts Project (TGHP)

72. Toy Libraries Malaysia

73. UMANY

74. UNDI 18

75. Undi Sarawak

76. Women For Refugees (WFR)

77. Women’s Centre for Change, Penang (WCC)

78. World Vision Malaysia

79. Yayasan Chow Kit

80. Ypolitics

81. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)

Individual

1. Aizat Hazlee

2. Amirah Rasyidah binti Azhar

3. Amirul Ikman Azman

4. Andi Suraidah

5. Andrew Khoo

6. Asher Mulroney

7. Aslam Abd Jalil

8. Azra Banu

9. Celine Lim

10. Charles Mak

11. Damon Goh Yiyang

12. Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS, Consultant Paediatrician

13. Devaruban Samalam Ruban

14. Dolly Tan

15. Dr. Rusaslina Idrus

16. Elisa Shafiqah binti Shahrilnizam

17. Florence Mah

18. Francis Ong

19. Gloria Bon

20. Gloria Tan

21. Harbans Kaur

22. Irene Wan

23. Jemima Chua

24. Jessica Tan

25. Joseph Paul

26. Juliana bt Jamaludin

27. Kalaivani

28. Kalavathy

29. Kasthuri Krishnan

30. Keerthana Sandrasegaran

31. Kenneth Cheng

32. Kieran Li Nair

33. Ku Jie Yee

34. Lan Lee

35. Lee Kok Hwee

36. Lim Ee Chiew

37. Lim Jeen Siew

38. Mangleswary Subramaniam

39. Mariammah Subramaniam

40. Meenakshi Raman

41. Melody Woon

42. Meyassa Hussain

43. Michele Rozells

44. Michelle Lai

45. Nadine Faisal

46. Ng Lai Thin

47. Ngo Sheau Shi

48. Nur Sakeenah Omar

49. Ong Rui Yu

50. Pet Ng

51. Ramesh A/L Raghavji Devraj

52. Salina Hussein

53. Scott J Wong

54. See Eugene

55. Shida

56. Shireen Sudhakaran

57. Siti Aishah

58. Suriani Kempe

59. Sydney Goh

60. Theresa Symons

61. Timothy Tan

62. Willa Mowe

63. Wong Mei Mei

64. Wong Woan Yiing

65. Yap Sook Yee

66. Yeoh Soo Han

67. Zhariff Afandi

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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