Selective human rights policy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 December, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 December, 1998, 12:00am

I refer to the letter headlined, 'Interfering' (South China Morning Post, November 21) and totally agree with your correspondent.

US Vice-President Al Gore was a guest of Malaysia when he chose to make his speech in support of Anwar Ibrahim, much to the distaste of his host, the Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

There are still instances of human rights violations in many countries, but you do not see US leaders going to all these countries and stoutly defending human rights.

Take Burma, for instance. Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for a long time. Why doesn't the US try telling the junta there that its conduct is appalling? Why doesn't it try and do something for the democratic movement in that country? When Indonesians were clamouring against then-President Suharto's rule and there was (and still is) so much bloodshed where was the US? Dr Mahathir has, in the past, stood up to the might of the West. He has never ever toed the line dictated by the West, no matter how much pressure was put on him. This must have angered US leaders. They do not like to take no for an answer.

I would also point to the matter of Chile and Augusto Pinochet. When a UK court initially decided to grant him immunity and not extradite him to Spain to stand trial for atrocities committed in Chile, many countries voiced their protest, but the US had nothing to say. In fact, the US Government was largely responsible for Pinochet coming to power in Chile. Now the Pentagon is reportedly uncomfortable about providing records which would show to what extent human rights held true during the Pinochet regime's reign of terror. While all this was going on in Chile, the US did nothing.

The Pinochet regime was the very antithesis of the human rights movement that Vice-President Gore expressed support for in Malaysia.

The US browbeats other countries over their human rights records, but it does so in a very selective way.