Many roadblocks to thwart human rights in M’sia

Athi Shankar | April 11, 2012

Too many political leaders, lawmakers and high ranking government officials lacked wisdom to accept human rights principles to be basis of the country’s policies, says a Suhakam man.

GEORGE TOWN: Lack of knowledge, information and appreciation, and religious and racial bias were main reasons thwarting human rights growth of international-standard in the country, blamed a Suhakam commissioner.

Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) member Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah noted that many political leaders, lawmakers and high ranking government officials lacked wisdom to accept human rights principles to be basis of the country’s policies.

The outspoken commissioner said these policy makers either failed or refused to embrace the international concept of human rights principles.

Hence, he said policy makers have always challenged and resisted recommendations made by Suhakam to reform and improve the country’s human rights standards.

He cited India as an example where political parties, civil rights groups and lay public would jointly pressure the government to implement recommendations made by the country’s human rights commission.

“We lack this cohesive citizenry strength to force human rights reforms in Malaysia,” lamented Muhammad Sha’ani.

He said Malaysia was now lagging behind other countries in progressive human rights policies, in line with rapidly developing global human rights values based on international covenants, conventions, laws and policies.

“If this goes on, Malaysia cannot stand equal with others in terms of human rights … it will be a loss to us,” he told FMT.

He pointed out that the country leaders must act fast to rectify the problem, especially in wake of emerging Asean Community bloc by 2015.

He noted that the world was now changing drastically into a democratic, decentralised and freer global family adopting human rights as part of universal culture.

“But in Malaysia, we still have policies blocking children from taking part in peaceful assembly and candlelight vigils,” slammed Muhammad Sha’ani.

Racial discrimination

He noted that Malaysia should not have discriminatory laws against foreign companies to protect domestic companies in accordance with World Trade Organisation policies.

He said foreign workers, although cannot be granted all citizenry rights, should also be protected by labour laws and given rights to unions.

He said religious and racial bias at lower end execution level has also undermined efforts to implement human rights policies designed to protect rights of all citizens.

He cited an example in Pahang where an Orang Asli family of Christian background, which has four members with disabilities, was deprived of any assistance by the welfare department for past 30 years.

Only yesterday, the state welfare department had taken the initiative to help the family following a complaint lodged by Muhammad Sha’ani on Sunday to the department director-general.

He admitted that Malaysians were discriminated based on race and religions on educational opportunities, scholarships, civil service employments, apart from welfare aids.

He said the government can always implement special measures and legislations to help needy, under privileged and marginalised citizens.

But, he said that too must be done regardless of their ethnic and religion backgrounds.

“It’s bad for religion and race equations to come in between human rights principles and implementation.

“We should do away with racial and religious discrimination in line with international norms. There shall not be privileges based on race and religion,” he said.

Suhakam checking on institutional racism

Muhammad Sha’ani said Suhakam has been investigating on whether race and religions bias was a reason behind the high number of deaths among ethnic Indians in hands of police.

He said Suhakam has received many complaints from civil rights movement, Hindraf Makkal Sakti, on killings during police shootings and death in custody of ethnic Indians.

He said Suhakam was probing on whether such incidents were prevalent among Indians only or also involved other communities as much.

He cited legislation such as Printing Presses and Publications Act and Societies Act were also against international doctrines of freedom of association and media.

He chided the discretionary power given solely to minister-in-charge to accept or reject an application to commence a publication or organisation as undemocratic.

Stressing that ministerial power shall not be the final authority, he said rejected applicants should be given another legal avenue to appeal and challenge the ministerial decision.

He called for the formation of an independent panel, compromising current and former judges, lawmakers and civil rights activitists, to review and decide such appeals.

“The minister must explain before the panel reasons for his decision. The panel should have power to overrule the ministerial decision.

“It should decide on whether to accept or dismiss an appeal,” he said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dr.Jeffry Kitingan is a Christian Kadazan from Sabah. But is he in favor of Bersih 3.0 or not? He is either pro-Bersih 3.0 or anti-Bersih 3.0. If you are pro-Bersih 3.0, then you are not anti-Bersih 3.0. If you are anti-Bersih 3.0, then you are not pro-Bersih 3.0. I do have a lot of respect for Dr.Jeffry Kitingan, but on this important moment in history, he and other Sabahans and Sarawakians must make a clear unambiguous public stand. I think the Malaysian citizens need to know.

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The UMNO government agreed to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the large presence of illegal foreigners in Sabah and the widespread issuance of Malaysian Mykads and identification documents. But UMNO has yet to do something concrete. UMNO has to do something concrete before the General Elections(GE13). Starting the RCI work after the GE13 is a joke.

The Hindu Malaysians have the same problem. There is a UMNO minister who asked the Hindu Malaysians to have "nambikei" in UMNO. The word "nambikei" means "faith" in Tamil language. The reality is that due cronyism and favoritism, most Hindu Malaysians were sidelined. Now an UMNO Minister is asking Hindu Malaysians to put faith in him. It means that if the Hindu Malaysians vote for UMNO in GE13, then UMNO will respond by helping to uplift the Hindu Malaysians out of poverty. But faith can be given to the Almighty, not human beings because human beings do err all the time. It is dangerous to put faith in human beings because they may betray you too. What Hindu Malaysians need is equal rights and meritocracy.

At some point in time Sabahans must draw the line somewhere. Waiting for GE13 to be over before the RCI can do what they should do may not be a good idea. Any way, its up to Sabahans to decide. Should the RCI do its work before GE13 or after GE13 is the burning question. If the Sabahans continue to tolerate and have faith in UMNO, then it is their own problem. It is for Sabahans to wise up. It is for Sabahans to realize that they have been shortchanged. It is for Sabahans to decide their own future. Sabahans cannot and should not wait and wait for the RCI to do its work. I say that the RCI should do its work before GE13; and this should be the ultimatum.

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The political history of Malaysia can be divided into two chapters: that is, chapter one and chapter two. Chapter One is about UMNO rule with a 2/3 majority in Parliament. Chapter Two is about UMNO rule without a 2/3 majority in Parliament. We are now in Chapter Two. The beginning of Chapter Two is the end of Chapter One. Similarly, the end of Chapter One is the beginning of Chapter Two.

Chapter One had its social, political, and economic implications for the nation. Chapter Two has just begun and its social, political, and economic changes are something we have to wait and see.

Do feel free to provide suggestions, ideas, comments, complaints or articles. Thank you

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