PROHAM’S REFLECTIONS ON 2012 HUMAN RIGHTS DAY
In conjunction with Human Rights Day on Dec 10, 2012, Proham hosted a ‘Tea – Discussion’ which was attended by about 30 people including five Proham members namely Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, Datuk Dr Chiam Heng Keng, Datuk KV Vorah, Dato Siva Subramanium & Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria
Invited guests as panel speakers included Mr Alan Vernon of the UNHCR, Mr Ahmad Fuad Rahmat of Projeck Dialog & Islamic Renaissance Front, Dr Daniel Ho of Community Excel Services and Ms Mary Pereira former project officer with Tenaganita.Other guest included Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, Deputy Higher Education Minister, Datuk Vaithalingam former Hindu Sangam President, Mr Andrew Khoo & Mr Yogeswaran Subramanium of the Bar Council, Ms Tijah Yok Chopil of JKOASM, Ms Josie Fernandez of TI, Ms Elsie Lee of the Malaysian Association of Social Workers, Mr Jerald Joseph of Dignity International, Ms Lena Hendry of Komas, Mr Kon Onn Sein of YKPM & Mr Tan Kong Beng of the Christian Federation of Malaysia.
In the course of the discussion a number of key themes pertaining to human rights were highlighted and discussed. These included:-Firstly, that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which was adopted on Dec 10, 1948 is the most widely translated human rights document into 400 different languages and which serves as the foundation or base or reference for all subsequent human rights conventions, declaration, laws and instruments. Therefore both regional and national status must be reviewed and interpreted on the basis of the UDHR.
Secondly, the Asean Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) which was passed recently can be viewed as an important mile stone in Asean development as there is now a common document and stand among Asean members. However a number of concerns were expressed due to the contextual interpretation and restrictions based on phrases like “in accordance with national laws” and reference to “national security, public order, public health, public safety, public morality” which is in contrast to the UDHR. Furthermore, the rights of ‘indigenous people’ could have been incorporated into article 4 of AHRD as they form a sizable part of the Asean community like other vulnerable and marginalised groups.Thirdly, Malaysia is recognised as playing a very active role in promoting human rights overseas especially in advocacy for the Palestine people, Rohingyans and in the role Malaysia played in the peace accord in Mindanao. These with the efforts are commendable, however they falls short at the domestic level in spite of recent legislative reform efforts as they do not meet international standards and domestic expectations of the citizenry.
Fourthly, the research report entitled the “Washing the Tigers, Addressing discrimination & inequality in Malaysia” produced by the Equal Rights Trust in partnership with Tenaganita is an extensive research work which must be studies further and the recommendation reviewed as its can be a useful resource in addressing discrimination and inequality in Malaysian society from human rights and social justice framework.Fifthly, there is an urgent need for Malaysia to improve its human rights track record domestically and there is a need for a stronger political will to ensure this realisation.
In this context Proham makes the following recommendations to the Federal government in order to consolidate and institutionalised human rights in Malaysia society especially in 2013 and beyond:-
- Establish a Parliamentary standing committee on human rights
- Ratify core human rights conventions especially the Convention on civil & political rights and the Convention of economic & social rights. Also the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
- Establish a Cabinet Committee on Human Rights chaired by PM or DPM
- Establish a special taskforce at the Secretary to Government (KSN) level to ensure compliance. Ensure Suhakam is a member of this taskforce as well as incorporate some leading human rights NGOs to also assist the federal government
- Make federal funds available to civil society for human rights awareness & education, advocacy & research, training & capability building
- Formulate a Malaysia Human Rights Action Plan which will chart an action plan and time frame
Released on behalf of Proham by Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, (Proham Secretary General)
December 11, 2012