Friday, December 10, 2004

Human Rights in Asia Pacific: A Numbers Game?

Open Statement of the Asian Students Association on International Human Rights Day
December 10, 2004

Twenty-two year old Soh Sook Wah may not ever get to hold or see her university diploma, what for many a key to unlocking their future.

For her political involvement in the recent Malaysian general election, she was charged by the University of Science Malaysia for violating the University College and Colleges Act. With this, she may face suspension, expulsion or worst, a space in the list of blacklisted youth in the university.

Her rights to free association and affiliation, free expression and speech, movement and decision have been grossly violated by laws the Malaysian government itself has passed and implemented for many years.

Soh Sook Wah is not alone.

The young people of Aceh in Indonesia, Mindanao in the Philippines and West Papua wake up to see barrels of guns aimed at their houses, guns held by the military and paramilitary who are supposed to protect them.

The Apartheid wall in Palestine remains as foreboding as the Israeli Zionist’s terrorist intent, constricting their right to education, livelihood and movement.

The cost of human sacrifice in the recent Iraq war reached 16,000 - how many of them are young people?

This is not to mention those who have lost their right to education with the commercialization of universities and schools; the indigenous youth whose rights to ancestral domain and self-determination displaced because of what the state calls development; the youth section in many unemployment records of governments the world over; the young women forced into hard labor, prostitution and abuse aggravated further by sexism and patriarchy.

While the states of the world celebrate International Human Rights day today, many of the youth don’t even know they have human rights.

December 10 may be another regular day for those who live in fear, for those who have been taught to succumb and blindly follow, for those who don’t know that such a day exists.

The ASA sees this day not a day to celebrate but review the human rights record and the situation of people, especially the youth in Asia Pacific.

It is not simply an event to celebrate existence of human rights conventions but to review if they are implemented and push various states to sign, recognize and follow them.

International human rights conventions exist yet many still have their rights violated. Human rights defenders and advocates themselves become the target of torture, harassment and even murder.

The strong determination of the United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights to uphold human rights in the world is virtuous yet various governments fail to promote and uphold democracy in their respective countries and constituencies.

The International Criminal Tribunal may just be another answer in a law aptitude examination with war criminals and human rights violators running scot-free around the world, holding office and running business.

As an independent student platform in the Asia-Pacific, we in the ASA take up the challenges by intensifying the human rights campaign.

We recognize and support movements and organizations and institutions who have stood up against guns, goons and gold to uphold freedom, democracy and human rights. We remain in solidarity with states and peoples asserting their self-determination and sovereignty.

The repression and suppression from the state will not stop us but rather will push us to rise up and resist. Their assaults and efforts of repression only show the weakness of the state to gain the support and confidence from the people. Their irrelevance becomes clearer.

We remain in solidarity with the people of the world who contribute their strengths, ideas, freedom and sweat to uphold the human rights. We pay tribute to those who sacrificed themselves in the struggle to realize the dream of a better life for the people.

For the youth belong to and are with the people who struggle now.