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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Capacity Building for UPR Monitoring

Mr Henry Koh (Proham volunteer, PROHAM Secretariat) highlights some aspects of the recently organised training focusing on ESCR issues

On 11 August 2015, PROHAM & EMPOWER organized a training on Universal Periodic Review (UPR) monitoring at Brickfields Asia College PJ Campus.

As the civil society plays a pivotal role during the UPR process, this training was designed for members of civil society, human rights defenders and volunteers who want to play a role in monitoring human rights issues and concerns in Malaysia. The training focused on the capacity building of civil society organisations (CSOs) in documentation of human rights conditions/violations in Malaysia for the next cycle of UPR in 2018. This session is specifically focused on the theme of Economic and Socio-Cultural Rights (ESCR) frameworks.

More than 50 participants joined us for the training – made up of CSOs of diverse rights groups, members of the Malaysian Bar Council, Coalition of Malaysian NGOs (COMANGO), human rights defenders, lawyers, researchers and law students. Among our participants, some of them have already previously worked on the UPR submissions and monitoring/documentation process; while some younger organisations would like to benefit from the training in order to play an active role in the upcoming UPR cycle of Malaysia.

The first session started off with Dr. Lin Mui Kiang (UN Consultant and PROHAM Secretariat) explaining the formation of the UPR process. 

Dr. Lin gave an introduction on the history of the UN, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International human rights mechanism and conventions that subsequently led to the creation of the UPR; under the direction of the new Human Rights Council back in 2006. It was also noted that Malaysia’s ranking is low among member states in ASEAN, OIC, NAM, UN and the Commonwealth Nations. Out of 9 international human rights covenants/conventions, Malaysia is only a signatory of 3 conventions; such as CEDAW, Convention on the Rights of the Child and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Dr. Lin continued to explain on the interdependency between sustainable development and human rights. Thus, the UPR was established when the Human Rights Council was created in 2006 during the UN General Assembly. The UN Human Rights Council was mandated to undertake a universal periodic review, based on objectives obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all member states.

For the very first time, the UN Human Rights Council provides an opportunity for all States to declare actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights through the UPR process. The UPR mechanism provides a platform for the sharing of best human rights practices around the globe. In this regard, the monitoring of CSOs and grass-root NGOs on reporting what is the actual human rights situation on the ground is extremely important in the submission of the national report during the review. Hence, it is crucial for Malaysian CSOs to be fully equipped with a working knowledge of UPR monitoring and submissions.

The advocacy and documentation officer of EMPOWER, Mr. Rizal Rohan then continued on the second session on the dissemination of Malaysia’s past UPR process and reports. 

As a co-secretariat of COMANGO along with SUARAM, EMPOWER have been actively involved in producing stakeholder reports, UN submissions as well as the mid-term review report on for the upcoming UPR in 2018. The participants were briefed on the methodologies on documenting the human rights situation according to the UPR format. In the process of doing so, Rizal explained on how can the key actors intervene better during the UPR monitoring process. He also stressed on the importance of not neglecting the implementation process after the review because that will be the appropriate period where changes are made in the states under review. For example, sometimes the CSOs focused too much on the review but neglected the implementation process.

Rizal further illustrated his points by referring to the current mid-term report prepared by COMANGO (with EMPOWER and SUARAM). It is also noted that some cases were thrown out due to technical issues. Furthermore, while the government is a signatory of certain international rights conventions such as CEDAW, there has been no tangible signs of commitment on behalf of the government in implementing those conventions so far. Rizal also encouraged the participants and local NGOs who have not joined COMANGO to do so in forming a stronger and unified human rights coalition during and after the UPR process. COMANGO will then prioritize issues at higher stake and group them together before moving on to build a good strategy in addressing them.


During the third session, Datuk Dr. Denison Jayasooria provided his expertise on the specifics aspects of ESCR monitoring. Dr. Denison gave a good insight on the technicalities of monitoring ESCR issues through his extensive academic researches, publications and practical experiences in doing so. He has interviewed many different parties involved or affected by the inequalities of ESCR issues throughout Malaysia. 

He further illustrated how certain sustainable programmes are affected when a state funded programme such as BR1M interrupted the funds meant for better ESCR sustainability programmes. Such a contrasting situation does not allow the symbiotic relationship between tackling ESCR issues and the sustainability in doing so – resulting in a non-reliable mechanism in the long run. Dr. Denison also encouraged certain NGO groups not to be disheartened when recommendations made were not accepted  as there are other avenues to be used as an entry point to slowly address and champion for the human rights matters that are being ignored at the moment.

In the closing for the training session, 

Datuk Khutubul Zaman delivered his speech on the reflection of the current human rights situation in Malaysia. 

He further encouraged the participants to continue to play a proactive role in safeguarding the equality and human rights for everyone in this nation. 

With the training session, all participants hope to work toward a more affective human rights monitoring mechanism through the UPR process and implementation.



Sunday, 7 August 2016

UPR Monitoring Training (Organised by PROHAM)

Date: 11 August 2016

Venue: Birmingham Room, Floor 3A, Block 2, Brickfields Asia College PJ Campus (VSQ Building), Jalan Utara, 46200 Section 14, Selangor.

Programme Agenda:

2:30pm - Registration

3:00pm - Introductions

3:30 to 4:30pm - Understanding the UPR process - Dr. Lin Mui Kiang (Former United Nations Coordination Specialist / PROHAM)

4:30 to 5:30pm - Review of past monitoring and reports - Mr. Rizal Rozhan (Advocacy and Documentation Office, EMPOWER)

5:30 to 6:30pm - Specific aspects of Eco Soc Cultural R rights monitoring - Datuk Dr. Denison Jayasooria (PROHAM / KITA-UKM)

6:30pm - Concluding reflections by Datuk Khutubul Zaman (PROHAM)

7:00pm - Dinner

Participation by registration only. Email - henrykoh89@gmail.com

Saturday, 30 July 2016

CALL BY PROHAM TO STRENGTHEN INSTITUTIONAL GOVERNANCE FOR CHECK & BALANCE IN COMPLIANCE WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

Our parliamentary democracy is built on the principle of ‘check and balance’ of the executive who have been elected by the people. Independent institutions have the role of preventing abuse of power in public office and taking appropriate action on wrong doers.  Public accountability and good governance are an integral part of human rights and citizens action which is guaranteed by our Federal Constitution.

Malaysian policies and legislation has established independent mechanisms which have a public duty to save guard and protect public interest. These institutions include the Attorney General, the Auditor General, the Inspector General of Police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) and the Parliamentary Accounts Committee. They are to undertake independent monitoring, investigation, inquiry, and assessment and identify wrong doers who are then must be prosecuted.     
                                                                       
PROHAM recognises that action or in action by the executive is weakening both parliamentary democracy and good governance in Malaysian society. Collective action is urgently needed to reverse this trend in the public interest.

As we reflect on three current issues in Malaysian society, PROHAM is deeply concerned for the state of democracy, human rights and public accountability in Malaysia society.

First, the civil action by the Department of Justice in the United States on July 20, 2016 raises questions to why similar actions were not undertaken by our national institutions which had been undertaking different enquires. The US DoJ has filed a civil lawsuit seeking to seize assets that it claims were embezzled from 1Malaysia Development Berhad by certain individuals who have been named.

In contrast, the authorities in Malaysia are yet to take action on Datuk Shahrol Azral, the former CEO of 1MDB who had been singled out by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee as per the PAC report (2016:pg 105) which was released on April 7, 2016. Follow up action to the PAC report is urgently needed to restore public confidence and bring wrong doers to justice.

Second, the coming to effect of the National Security Council Act and its provisions have major restrictions to human rights in security areas. This too further enhances executive powers. There are already sufficient laws to ensure the safety and security of the nation.

Third, the proposed amendments to the Legal Profession Act 1976 will greatly impact the independence of the Malaysian Bar. This too is viewed as restricting fundamental rights to voice out the abuses by the executive.

PROHAM calls on the Malaysian executive to adhere to international governance standards and compliance to fundamental liberties. An immediate stop must be put on any action or inaction which will compromise the integrity of the independent institutions. Failure to do this will see a further erosion of public confidence both nationally and globally of the current administration of Malaysia.  

Issued on behalf of PROHAM by Datuk Kuthbul Zaman (PROHAM Chair) & Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (PROHAM Secretary General).

July 30, 2016

Friday, 29 July 2016

OHCHR concerned by the entry into force in Malaysia of the National Security Council (NSC) Act on 1 August



The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia (OHCHR) said on Friday it
was concerned by the entry into force in Malaysia of the National Security
Council (NSC) Act which gives the Prime Minister sweeping security powers
and could restrict civil liberties.

The Act, which comes into effect on 1 August, establishes a National
Security Council to handle matters related to national security and will be
headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak. Through the Act, the Prime Minister
will have the power to declare, upon the advice of the NSC, a “security
area”, defined as being a location “seriously disturbed or threatened by
any person, matter or thing which causes or is likely to cause serious harm
to the people of Malaysia, or serious harm to the territories, economy,
national key infrastructure of Malaysia or any other interest of Malaysia”.
The declaration is valid for up to 6 months, and can be renewed an infinite
number of times.

Forces operating in a “security area” will be given sweeping powers,
including the capability to arrest and search persons, enter and search
premises, and seize property without a warrant. Furthermore, they will be
allowed to use force against persons, including force amounting to death,
as they deem reasonable and necessary in the circumstances “to preserve
national security”. Moreover, the Act grants immunity to members of
security forces and personnel of other Government entities for their acts
in any “security area”.

“These provisions run counter to the requirement to investigate wrongdoing
and hold institutions and their personnel accountable in the case of human
rights violations,” said Laurent Meillan, OHCHR’s acting regional
representative in Bangkok. “We are gravely concerned that the immunity
provisions in the Act may encourage human rights violations.”

Meillan expressed concern that the Act could also be used to impose unjust
restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of assembly.
“We call on the Government to revise the Act to bring it in line with
international human rights norms and standards. Furthermore, we encourage
the Government to allow for an open and transparent consultation process on
the provisions in the Act with all relevant stakeholders,” he said.

* The National Security Council Bill 2015 was presented in Parliament on 1
December 2015. It was passed by the Lower House on 3 December 2015 and the
Upper House on 22 December 2015.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

UPR MONITORING TRAINING


Date:                           August 11 (Thursday)

Time:                           2.30pm – 7pm

Venue:                         Brickfields Asia College, PJ campus

Admission                   Free & we invite human rights volunteers who like to play a role in monitoring human rights issues and concerns in Malaysia

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a peer review system introduced by the United Nations where every member state will undergo review of its human rights situation. Malaysia underwent the UPR in 2009 and more recently in Oct 2013.

Join us and get to know how best to be part of this process of monitoring human rights in Malaysia. This is a good opportunity to be better equipped with the know-how, process, previous reports and future possibilities.

OBJECTIVES

To build-capacity of CSOs to do monitoring and documentations of human rights conditions/violation in Malaysia, to prepare for UPR.

To focus specifically on the theme of Economic and Socio-Cultural Rights (ESCR).

PROGRAM

2.30 pm                       Registration & refreshments - running tea/coffee/water

3pm                             Introductions

3.30 to 4.30pm            Understanding the UPR process- Dr Lin Mui Kiang (Former United Nations Coordination Specialist / PROHAM)

4.30 to 5.30pm            Review of past monitoring and reports- Mr Rizal Rozhan (Advocacy and Documentation Officer, EMPOWER

5.30 to 6.30 pm           Specific aspects of ESCR monitoring- Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (PROHAM /KITA-UKM

6.30pm                        Concluding reflections

7pm                             Dinner


Register by August 5, 2016 and with   PROHAM - prohamsecretariat@gmail.com  

& Mr Koh Henry- Email : henrykoh89@gmail.com

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Human Rights Council: Speak out strongly for civil society protection


(Geneva) - Members of the UN's top human rights body should support the positive contribution of civil society to the protection of human rights, and resist attempts to undermine a resolution intended to respond to the global crackdown on civil society, a group of more than 240 civil society groups said today.

In an open letter addressed to member States of the Human Rights Council, the organisations spanning across all regions of the world called on delegations to support the draft resolution on the protection of civil society space, to be considered for adoption at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council later this week.

The resolution, proposed by Chile, Ireland, Japan, Sierra Leone and Tunisia was developed through broad consultation with States and civil society and in the past was adopted by consensus. It is based on the UN High Commissioner's report on civil society space, and highlights the important role civil society actors play in contributing to peace and security, human rights and sustainable development. It also includes a number of positive measures on promoting and protecting civic space and requests OHCHR to develop a report on the participation of civil society across the UN and regional and international organisations.

Despite the important normative standards set out in the resolution the Russian Federation has presented adverse amendments seeking to undermine the core international human rights principles articulated in the resolution. The joint civil society letter calls on States to reject the amendments, and adopt the resolution as presented.

In March 2016, the Human Rights Council rejected a similar series of amendments presented by the Russian Federation and other States, at the time seeking to undermine a resolution protecting human rights defenders who work on economic, social and cultural rights. During the current session of the Council, Russia, Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC except Albania), China and others have also presented a large number of amendments on the resolutions on sexual orientation and gender identity, on violence against women and the protection of human rights on the Internet.

'The tactic to present a large number of formal amendments clearly seeks to problematise issues, such as the protection of civil society space, and aims at crippling the Council's role in speaking out against human rights violations, and providing policy guidance to States to correct them', said Michael Ineichen, ISHR's Director of Human Rights Council Advocacy.


'And the substance of the amendments - including in the areas of registration of NGOs, access of civil society to funding, and protecting against reprisals - would serve to justify and perpetuate human rights violations in many of the States proposing them', Mr Ineichen said.

29.06.2016

http://www.ishr.ch/news/human-rights-council-speak-out-strongly-civil-society-protection

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM)- GBM 5th AGM Press Release

Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM), a coalition of 28 non-governmental organizations, concluded its 5th Annual General Meeting 2016 on the 18th June 2016 at Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall. Tan Yew Sing, former president of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, stepped down as the Chair of the coalition after two terms.  The AGM elected a new team of leadership for the coalition with Zaid Kamaruddin, who is the deputy president of Pertubuhan IKRAM Malaysia, being elected as the new Chair of GBM.

In the opening speech of the outgoing Chair, Tan Yew Sing highlighted that Malaysia is currently suffering from two national crises and they are: first, the deterioration of politicians’ integrity and credibility; second, the escalation of ethno-religious exclusion and disharmony.

He pointed out that the 1MDB scandal has made Malaysia infamous in the eyes of the world, with Malaysia landed second of the five worst countries plagued by corruption by Time Magazine. Despite the Attorney-General having already cleared the Prime Minister, the case is still being investigated by relevant authorities in several countries. 

He said even plans of the opposition joining hands with Mahathir and other UMNO dissidents to overthrow Najib did not work as public took that as being driven by political expediency to grab power without concrete agenda of institutional reforms. 

Tan expressed his concerns that ethno-religious exclusion and disharmony issues have increased since the GE13 with election outcome spun as a “Chinese Tsunami” while Bersih 4 peaceful rally was labelled as a challenge of the Chinese to the Malays’ political power.

He further pointed out that religion was also used as a tool to create walls between communities, citing “cross phobia” cases in Petaling Jaya and Langkawi where a cross were forced to be removed and the roof of a building had to be reconstructed, while the introduction of “halal” trolleys and lifts further entrenched segregation between Muslims and non-Muslims. 

Tan also criticized the fasttracking of Hadi’s Bill by government minister as political opportunism and reflected a dangerous shift in the position of Barisan Nasional government. He said the bill posed a challenge to the secular nature of the country as enshrined in the Federal Constitution and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement. He called on the 1963 Malaysia Agreement to be faithfully upheld and no changes should be made without a comprehensive revisiting of the constitutional arrangement,  

Tan urged the citizens of Malaysia to work hard to forge consensus on two major issues, namely islamisation and affirmative action. he further called on the civil society and business community provide leadership when and where politicians have failed. He cited examples among GBM, members in Negeri Sembilan and Sungai Petani, Kedah where Chinese schools and schools run by IKRAM have come together to have dialogues and joint cultural activities. 

The AGM adopted a resolution calling for the start of a new and more matured politics in Malaysia where ethnic identities should be celebrated and religious believes should be fully respected and not exploited for any political mileage and diving the nation.

The list of newly elected Executive Council (Exco) members of GBM is as below:

Chair: Zaid Kamaruddin (Pertubuhan IKRAM Malaysia)
Deputy Chair: Tan Yew Sing (Merdeka University Berhad)
Secretary: Seah Hong Yee (ENGAGE)
Assistant Secretary: Stanley Yong Yew Wei (Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall)
Treasurer: Raghavan Annamalai (Tamil Foundation) 

Exco Members:

Sevan Doraisamy (SUARAM)
Leong Yik Loong (Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall)
Wong Piang Yow (Tindak Malaysia)
Prematilaka KD Serisena (Majlis Perundingan Mlaysian Agama Buddha, Kritisian, Hindu, Sikh dan Tao (MCCBCHST))
Christopher Chong Eu Choong (Aliran)
Yow Lee Fung (LLG Cultural Development Centre)

18 June, 2016