SUARAM is 20 years old this year!!!

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In 1989, upon the release of the last detainees of Operation Lalang, where 107 individuals were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), several of these detainees formed a human rights NGO called Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) or the Voice of the Malaysian Peoples.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of SUARAM. Through many years of hard work, SUARAM has established itself as a leading human rights organization in Malaysia. Indeed, SUARAM has come a long way since its establishment.

Persistent Defender of All Human Rights
From its genesis in the Operation Lalang and through numerous other landmark events that shaped the sociopolitical landscape in the country, SUARAM has been steadfast in assisting and highlighting the plight of many victims of state oppression.
While beginning as an organization campaigning solely against the ISA, SUARAM’s work has since expanded to cover other areas of human rights. Today, SUARAM runs campaigns, trainings, and documenting and monitoring human rights violations, amongst others. Today, SUARAM’s name is synonymous with the following but not limited to, the campaign and movement to abolish the ISA; campaign to hold the police and other law enforcement agencies accountable for abuses of power; campaigns for the rights of refugees and the freedoms of expression, assembly, association and information; and monitoring the performance of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM).
SUARAM is also the only organization in Malaysia that publishes a human rights report on Malaysia every year without fail since 1998. This report is now widely recognized as the most objective, comprehensive and dependable source of information on the state of human rights in Malaysia.
SUARAM’s expansion can also be seen in the size of its staff and membership as well as geographical presence. From only a one member staff in 1989, today, SUARAM has its headquarters in Petaling Jaya and one branch each in Penang and Johor.
Catalyst of Change
True to its vision “[t]o uphold human rights for a society that is equal, just and democratic” and mission “[t]o build a human rights movement through empowerment, advocacy and solidarity”, SUARAM has facilitated many important initiatives in the larger movement for democratic change in Malaysia. Among others, in 1998, SUARAM played a facilitating and leading role in the landmark Gagasan Demokrasi Rakyat which linked NGOs with political parties in an attempt to create an alternative front for democracy and human rights in the country.
A more recent watershed event, the ‘Political Tsunami’ of 2008, can also be attributed to the persistent awareness building campaigns by SUARAM, whether on its own or through its roles in various coalitions. To some extent, the multiethnic united opposition front which challenged the hegemony of the Barisan Nasional during the 2008 General Election owes its existence to the Gagasan Demokrasi Rakyat which SUARAM led and helped strengthen in 1998.
Nurturing Leaders in Various Fields
Over the years, SUARAM has also consistently produced numerous committed activists and nurtured leaders in various fields.
In politics, a number of Members of Parliament and State Assemblypersons were trained by Suaram. Among them are Sivarasa Rasiah (Founder member and current Member of Parliament), Tian Chua (former staff and secretariat member, current Member of Parliament), Elizabeth Wong (former staff and secretariat member, current Selangor State Assemblyperson and Executive Councillor, Dr. Nasir Hashim (founder member and current Selangor State Assemblyperson), Chang Lih Kang (former staff and current Perak State Assemblyperson), and many others. Their solid human rights knowledge and experiences acquired during their time at SUARAM have proven to be instrumental in their work in the political arena today.
Many other former staff and secretariat members have gone on to establish a name for themselves through their work at other organizations within the larger context of the movement for democracy in Malaysia. These include Premesh Chandran (former secretariat member who is a founder of the pioneering online newspaper MalaysiaKini), Irene Xavier (founding member who now leads the Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor) and Eric Paulsen (former staff who went on to work for UNHCR in numerous countries). Some others have gone on to lead NGOs at the regional level.
A few are also currently serving as Local Councilor at Selangor which include Arutchelvan (former staff and current Director), Cynthia Gabriel (former Executive Director. current secretariat member and Executive Director for CARAM-Asia) and Arumugum K. (current Chairperson).
As SUARAM matures and expands itself, it continues to strive to train many more young activists to become leaders who care about justice, democracy and human rights.
20th Anniversary Bash: Fundraising Dinner, 6 December
The purpose of the dinner, themed “20 Years Defending Human Rights”, is to pay tribute to human rights defenders who have fought and sacrificed for the improvement of human rights in Malaysia, as well as to raise funds for SUARAM to continue its human rights work. It is also an opportunity for us to have fellowship and to thank those who have supported SUARAM in its work these twenty years. The dinner will be held on 6th December 2009 (Sunday) at the Banquet Hall MBPJ, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
The programmed features the presentation of the 11th SUARAM Annual Human Rights Award., the launch of SUARAM’s latest publication, the announcement of our T-shirt competition winner, and several performances by renowned performers who are also fervent supporters of the cause of human rights, such as Jerome Kugan, Meor and Azmyl Yunor and a musical theater performance directed by Khairun Azwan Rodzi (Director of Erma Fatima’s Musical Sirah Junjungan, Istana Budaya).
Lastly, SUARAM welcomes and thanks all who have contributed and supported its work throughout the years. With your unwavering support, SUARAM will continue to play its role as a defender of human rights in the country in our mutual quest to build a society that is equal, just and democratic.
For more information, please contact SUARAM at 03-7784 3525.

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