Who is R. Sivarasa October 5, 2007Posted by elizabethwong in Current Affairs, Democracy, Human Rights, International, Malaysia, Politics, Readings.
Perhaps this is the perfect moment to introduce R. Sivarasa, one of most renown, committed and consistent human rights advocate in Malaysia.
Siva was a key mover in the ISA Family Support Group during the turbulent time of the 1987 ISA arrests of social activists, politicians, activists, trade unionists etc.
He, with ISA detainees who were later released from Kamunting, formed Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), which grew to be Malaysia’s leading human rights organisation.
He’s even on Wikipedia 🙂
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sivarasa Rasiah is a prominent Malaysian lawyer and human rights activist. He is co-founder of Suara Rakyat Malaysia or Suaram (a human rights NGO) and vice-president of the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (People’s Justice Party).
Reminiscing on his early days in an interview with the New Straits Times, Siva said, “I was trying to get into medicine after high school in Victoria Institution but didn’t make the grade. Form Five was great but I guess in Form Six, there were many distractions. So instead I went into genetics in Universiti Malaya and graduated with first class honours. Six months into my Master’s I realised that this was not my cup of tea and was already looking at other options.”
He then applied for a Rhodes scholarship to pursue law at Oxford University. After completing his law degree and the Bar in Britain, Siva took a year off and went to Germany where he spent most of his time in libraries there reading. He worked for a bit after that in London before returning to Malaysia on his 30th birthday.
Human Rights Involvement
It was while he was in UK that he got interested in human rights and “became involved with union workers and stuff like that there”.
His first involvement with an NGO was in 1997 when he got involved with a women’s group called Citizens Against Rape. Siva got arrested twice during the 1998 Reformasi period but shrugs it off as part and parcel of the job.
This lawyer-cum-politician is a cancer survivor who lost his voice for almost a year due to thyroid cancer which damaged a nerve on his vocal chords. He had to speak with a little boom box and a speaker for a while due to this. Currently he has regained his voice but he says, “I can’t sing or shout, but at least I still can talk.”
He is married to Ann James, a prominent personality in the Malaysian theatre scene. Incidentally, he met his wife at a demonstration as well. “It was during Operasi Lalang and she was there too. We were kind off thrown together and that’s when it all happened. After a long courtship, we finally got married in 1993,” he revealed in the NST interview.
For someone who’s had a brush with the police, ironically both his father and his older brother were members of the force. His father was the registrar of the police force and his older brother was a senior police officer.
He is also an avid guitar player.
Siva is also sought after by the media.