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Tuesday, 12 March 2013


From the Introduction in the new Proham publication,
edited by Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria
Proham has effectively utilised the public space in both hosting
Roundtable Discussions (RTDs) and in the issuing of press statements
on critical public concerns affecting human rights situation in Malaysia
and overseas. We firmly believe that, making a public declaration of
our position is an important dimension of advocacy and exercise of
democratic freedom.

As a small newly established society with limited resources, we
have directed our energies towards articulating clear pro human rights
public policies both at the domestic level and Malaysia’s international
position at the Asean, OIC and global levels.

Over the period of 22 months since our establishment on March
10, 2011 to Dec 2012, Proham has hosted 18 RTDs and issued 65 press
statements. 14 of the RTD reports and all the press statements have been
included in this book entitled, Proham & Human Rights Concerns in

The book is divided into five parts. Part 1 is entitled, Human
Rights & Electoral reform. There have been major public outcryon this
matter and people’s demonstrations were organised. Proham hosted
three RTDs which is the focus of chapters 1 to 3. We managed to host a
public discussion on the election reform agenda with both the Election

Commission represented by the Deputy Commissioner and Bersih by
Dato Ambiga Sreenevasan. 

In addition, in another discussion reflected in chapter 2, we had three
members of the Parliamentary select committee participated, namely
the chair, Datuk Seri Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, Tan Sri Dr Fong Chan
Onn and Yb Kamalanthan.

In addition, Proham also had formal meetings with the Election
Commission Chairman on three occasions (August 19, 2011, June 1, 2012
& July 19, 2012) where Proham team led by Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam
presented the findings of the RTDs to the Election Commission

Part 2 entitled Human Rights & Socio-Economic Rights covers three
RTD’s findings in Chapters 4-6. We recognise that both civil-political
and economic-social rights are important dimensions of human rights.
Chapter 4 focuses on the MDGs and the need to move beyond national
averages to disaggregated analysis so as to identify the marginalised
groups and communities in Malaysian society.
The concerns of the indigenous people and their struggle for their
land are at the heart of poverty and discrimination of the Orang Asli
community is the focus of chapter 4. The findings here were submitted
to the Suhakam national land enquiry panel.

Discrimination and stereotyping of people of African descent is
discussed in chapter 6. This RTD was hosted in conjunction with the
UN International Year of People of African Descent.

Part 3’s focus is on Human Rights and Religious Tolerance. The
theme of the Prime Minster’s call for moderation is the focus of three RTD
discussions. With the rise of religiosity and the politicization of religion,
this theme has been of public interest. An appreciation of a human rights
approach based on justice and fairness will enable all Malaysians to live
in peace one with another.

Chapters 7 to 9 provide an in-depth review of the key issues of
contestation which use a pro human rights approach based on UDHR,
Federal Constitution and the spirit of moderation can find effective
practical solutions. The three Proham RTD reports which form the basis
of these three chapters were presented as three reports to the Prime
Minister on Jan 4, 2012 by Tan Sri Michael Yeoh and Datuk Dr Denison

Subsequently these reports were also presented to the Minister in
the PM Department, Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon and the Director-General of
the Department of National Unity and Integration, Dato Azman Amin
bin Hassan for their review and study. Both of them have actively
participated in the Proham discussions.

Human Rights & Institutional Mechanism is the focus of Part 4 with
five different chapters and sub-themes. We recognise that institutional
mechanisms are important. Fostering a human rights culture is
essential. In this context, chapter 10 deals with strengthening evidence
based investigations so as to reduce the abuse of suspects during the
investigation period. The findings of the RTD were presented to the IGP
by Proham members-Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, Tan Sri Michael Yeoh,
Ms Ivy Josiah and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria on November 17, 2011
Parliamentary democracy is the focus of chapter 11. We had MPs
representing both sides of the political divide and we were privileged
for having the Speaker of the Upper house and the Deputy Speaker of
the lower house participate in the discussion which was held in the
Parliament house.

Asean Human Rights Declaration is the focus of chapter 12 and our
findings were emailed to the Asean Inter governmental commission as
input to the formulation of the Declaration. While we had the Malaysian
representatives to Asean namely Dato Seri Shafee Abdullah and Datuk
Dr Chiam Heng Keng in our discussions, we were constrained as the
Asean process was not an open process, as the draft Asean Human Rights
Declaration was not circulated openly for comment. Proham emailed
the RTD report reflected in chapter 12 on Sept 11, 2012 to the AICHR
Chair, Dr Om Yentieng.

Part 4 contains two other chapters namely chapter 13 which is our
feedback on the US country report on Malaysia for 2010 and chapter 14
which is based on the theme of equality & human rights.

At the RTD on the US Report, the US Embassy was represented
by Mr Scott Rauland, the Counselor for Public Affairs. Tan Sri Michael
Yeoh and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria presented the RTD findings to
the US Ambassador to Malaysia on August 24, 2011.

The final section of this book is Part 5 and it is entitled Proham
position on contemporary human rights concerns. There are five chapters
(chapters 15 to 20) here and these are based on the 65 press releases made
by Proham in 2011 and 2012. These are the official position of Proham. In
addition Part 5 (chapters 16, 18 & 20) contains three brief papers written
and presented by Proham Chairman.

The internal process Proham undergoes in drafting a statement is, a
draft is first circulated by email and a majority consensus is reached. On
the whole as we have all served together in Suhakam and the Royal Police
commission there is already a major agreement among us on all the core
human rights issues based on the UDHR. This is a participatory process
and if there is a major issue, then there is a discussion among members.

One major area for a face to face discussion was whether Proham
should serve as a member of the domestic election observation team along
with a number of NGOs who were invited by the Election Commission.
The discussion took place on July 16 and the decision to withdraw was
informed personally by Tan Sri Simon Sipaun to the Election Commission
chair on July 19, 2012. A press statement was issued (ref to chapter 17)
after the meeting to highlight the reasons and the role Proham would
play at the macro policy level and not as a micro monitoring team at
the constituency level. This was largely due to resource and capacity

The Proham findings are now documented in this book for further
study and deliberations as our contribution in the on-going struggle
to ensure human rights is at the corner stone of public policy and
governance of the nation.

It is our hope that public discussions will usher in a new political
climate in which public opinion is an important and essential part of
good governance. Hearing differing voices, providing the public space
and establishing openness, tolerance and appreciation is most crucial. It
is imperative that we foster a climate for recognising human rights and
exercising human responsibilities.

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