A coalition of civil society organisations have expressed grave concern with the new commissioner line-up appointed by SUHAKAM (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia).
The coalition represents 102 NGOs including Bersih, Centre for Independent Journalism, Suara Rakyat Malaysia, Sisters in Islam and Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs among others.
Among some of the coalition’s criticisms include the fact that two commissioners are actually active Umno politicians, with the group stating “We want independent people who can perform their functions well. Active party members definitely don’t fit the bill.”
Additionally, the coalition has also pointed out the lack of human rights work experience in some of the other commissioners.
In light of the recent criticisms of SUHAKAM’S new line-up, DAP’S spokesperson for International Affairs, Kasthuri Patto has offered five helpful suggestions to get the Human Rights Commission back on track.
According to the member of Parliament for Batu Kawan, there are five important aspects that the new SUHAKAM ensemble must work hard to accomplish for the sake of the nation.
1. Maintain Malaysia’s ‘Grade A’ status or risk losing our seat in the UNHRC
A ‘Grade A’ allows Malaysia to join an international peer review on human rights, especially the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). A downgrade to ‘Grade B’ will mean Malaysia will lose that privilege and is unlikely to sit in the UNHRC.
2. Lobby the Government to table the SUHAKAM 2021 human rights report in Parliament
The report must be debated and contemplated with practical and robust action plans in place according to recommendations by the UN Human Rights Council, including stating his stand on the Rome Statute, an accession to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to persecute war criminals and dictators responsible for crimes against humanity and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) which he opposed a few years ago,
3. Build close working relationship with MPs and Parliamentary Special Select Committees
SUHAKAM must ensure that there are regular consultations, interactions and meetings with MPs and Parliamentary Special Select Committees as well as with CSOs, including the Malaysian Bar Council as partners in implementing the human rights agenda, as well as with CSOs, including the Malaysian Bar Council as partners in implementing the human rights agenda,
4.Lobby for SUHAKAM’s additional budget allocations to be placed under Parliament
SUHAKAM must lobby for additional budget allocations for their commission to not only be stated in the National Budget and should come from Parliament instead of from the Executive, in this case, the Prime Ministers Department to ensure integrity, independence and autonomy,
5. SUHAKAM must be the moral compass, conscience and conviction of the nation
SUHAKAM must urge the Government to act as enforcer of reforms in policies and laws that are pro human rights, and work towards the ratification of the 6 other UN human rights conventions.
There is much to do for human rights in Malaysia and SUHAKAM is the catalyst for human rights to be upheld, protected, promoted and defended without fear, favour or prejudice and must act as that.
This article has taken excerpts from Kasthuri Patto’s full statement which you can read here.