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The human rights run 2012 still a success despite all odds

The inaugural Human Rights Run 2012 jointly organized by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) together with the Kinabalu Running Club, PACOS Trust, The Yellow Dots and Pusat Kebajikan Good Sheperd was successfully held despite having to move the event to a new venue. The Human Rights Run and Concert were held on Saturday, 8 December 2012, at the Likas Lake Jogging Track of the Likas Sports Complex, Kota Kinabalu.

The initial venue for the Human Rights Run 2012 was the UMS Stadium. However, on the eve of the event, UMS unilaterally retracted the permission to use the stadium. On Friday evening, UMS had put up a banner stating ‘Larian Hak Asasi SUHAKAM dibatalkan’ but after informing UMS that it is the prerogative of the organisers to decide on the event, it was taken off on Saturday morning and replaced with a sign informing that the venue has been changed.

Initially, the organisers were told that the UMS decision was based on instruction that the event was politically motivated, but officials later justified their action to be a matter of UMS policy on the use of the stadium and to safeguard its students. Appeals to UMS officials were made until 8:30am on Saturday morning but their decision remained the same, except for its readiness to compensate and transport necessary equipment.

When contacted, the police explained that no order was issued by them to stop the event. If indeed there was a last minute instruction to UMS in prohibiting the event, then it is most regrettable and strongly denounced. SUHAKAM as one of the main organisers of the event is a statutory body created under an Act of Parliament to promote and protect human rights as provided in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, and should have been accorded the opportunity to explain before UMS reached its decision.

Due to the last minute change of venue, the organizers decided to cancel the Exhibition which was supposed to be held together with the Human Rights Run and Concert 2012, except those prepared by the organisers themselves. However, due to the heavy rain, the human rights exhibition prepared by the organisers had to be taken down. The participants who signed up for the exhibition included government departments and NGOs. PACOS Trust was still able to continue with the food bazaar and organised four tents for the events. Local bands from all over Sabah and gong beaters performing for the Human Rights Concert who have already arrived in Kota Kinabalu were able to perform but the organisers were unable to put them in an ideal location.

In the short time available, the Kinabalu Running Club was able to replicate the original plan for the Relay Run at the Likas Lake Jogging Track covering about 1.8km per loop. The bad weather did not dampen the spirits of the runners who enthusiastically joined the race. The organizers were amazed by the enthusiasm and passion of the people despite the heavy downpour, which truly reflect the sportsmanship of the runners to carry on with the Human Rights Relay Run.

The organizers would like to express their utmost appreciation to all volunteers, sponsors and the cooperation of relevant authorities for making this event a successful one, and offer its sincere apologies to members of the public and those who have agreed to participate in the exhibition for all the inconvenience caused. To this end, UMS owes SUHAKAM and the other organisers as well as the public a proper explanation for the cancellation.

SUHAKAM and the other organisers also urge the Government of Malaysia to be mindful of its commitment to human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the recent ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.

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