Weekly Highlights

What will PM Ismail Sabri do for Malaysian Human Rights?

A seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council means that Malaysia must commit to uphold, defend and promote human rights for all in our own backyard or else it would only be cosmetic and meaningless.

It was a proud moment for me and many Malaysians reading that Malaysia won a seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council for the term of 2022 to 2024.

I winced at the thought of all the violations of human rights happening in our own backyard and how difficult it was to get the Government to understand that it must take a top-down approach in terms of amending laws and a bottom-up approach in educating the public on these amendments.

Unnecessary? Ismail Sabri says he will continue his daily briefings | The  Star
In Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri’s address yesterday, he said Malaysia was ready to take an active role to “facilitate international reconciliation, cooperation and consensus building”.

I would like to remind him and hold him to his words to do the same back home.

If the Government truly believes in the content of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then it must do the necessary to ensure that it moves in that direction and not away from it.

If the Government is committed to uphold, defend and promote human rights for all in Malaysia then it should stop all attempts to violate it.

May be an image of 1 person and text that says "Kasthuriraani Patto Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan"
I call on the Prime Minister to engage with all Members of Parliament and to ensure he and his Government commits to these demands” – Kasthuri Patto

1. For the Malaysian Government to reform the criminal justice system and to abolish the death penalty beginning with the abolition of the mandatory death penalty.

– Malaysia remains one of the countries amongst the 51 that still have the death penalty. There are currently 1366 people on death row and the numbers have been increasing every year which shows that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime and there has to be greater investment by the Government to fight crime instead of ending lives. 

2. For the Malaysian Government to table amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorces) 1974 and Shariah provisions to set 18 as the age of marriage for Peninsular Malaysia as well as in Sabah and Sarawak.

– to date, Malaysia still allows child marriages to take place as according to the law. While there are more stringent procedures today after the nationwide uproar of a 41-year-old man who married an 11-year-old girl, even one case of a child marriage is a national disaster. This year there was no call by the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Rina Harun on the International Day of the Girl Child celebrated annually on 11th OCtober to renew her vow to end child marriages. Therefore, the time is right for the Government to put an end to it once and for all. 

3. For the Malaysian Government to withdraw the appeal of the High Court decision that allows for automatic citizenship of children born overseas to Malaysian mothers as done by Malaysian fathers and to amend the Federal Constitution in line with this.

– to date, Malaysia is a part of 25 countries that have nationality laws that deny women equal rights in conferring citizenship to their children as men do. How does the Prime Minister, Home Minister and the Attorney General feel about being lumped together with countries like Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Liberia, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran that are facing political instability, in the midst of a civil war or recovering from it? The Keluarga Malaysia would ring hollow and without substance if the Government and the AGC if they continue with the appeal. In hindsight this would be the best u-turn the Government would make. 

4. For the Malaysian Government to table the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission in the coming Parliament sitting and to ensure it is passed and to adopt a new interpretation by the Malaysia’s National Human Rights Institution (SUHAKAM) of custodial deaths as well as to ensure the welfare of the police force is taken care of. 

– Malaysia records custodial deaths annually in its lock-ups, prisons and detention centres, and whether increasing or decreasing in numbers, ONE death under the care and watch of the police is one preventable death too many. The Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC) lacks the bite and authority to probe into these custodial deaths and will be a waste of resources and manpower. It even has less powers than the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) which is mind boggling why the Government would want to still pursue this watered-down version of this very important commission.

5. For the Malaysian Government to sign and ratify international treaties such as the Rome Statute, the Second Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Convention Against Torture, the 1951 Refugee Convention and conventions that eliminate discrimination and intolerance based on religion and belief and to immediately set up a Royal Commission on Enforced Disappearances.

– Malaysia loses nothing if it signs and ratifies these conventions and other international instruments to be seen as a committed and serious partner in ensuring that violations against human rights, genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity be fought head on and to prevent future global atrocities.

The acceding of Rome Statute will give Malaysia an upper hand to refer any country that violates human rights and carry out crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court and must not be feared as it will in no way put Malaysia at any risk. Malaysia ranks at Tier 2 on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and while this may be taken lightly at home, the impact it has in the eyes of the global community would certainly affect future investors.

In the past few years Pastor Raymond Koh, Amri Che Mat, Joshua Helmy and Ruth have been victims of what was concluded as ‘enforced disappearances’. They disappeared in Malaysia and the Government must take this seriously to ensure these families have answers. These conventions are critical for Malaysia to hold itself accountable to. While it is not binding in nature, they will act as a moral compass for the Government and for all Malaysians on the direction of the country not to be seen as a country that allows for terrorism, radicalism and hate speech to spread in this land but for democracy, equality, social justice and freedom to flourish instead.

A seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council must be utilised as a golden opportunity for Malaysia to undo wrong practices in the past and to act as a state party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as mentioned by the Prime Minister himself. 

Malaysia and Malaysians must rise above ourselves to push for the Government to be accountable for its conduct in our own backyard as a new member of the UNHRC for the term of 2022 to 2024.

Kasthuri Patto

MP for Batu Kawan

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