|Five Proham members and 11 friends of Proham met on May 21, 2013 evening to discuss and reflect on GE 13 and subsequent developments from a human rights perspective.|
Proham recognises that there is an increased awareness of the importance of general elections based on the historical high voter turnout. This is indeed encouraging and it is also important to note that overall GE 13 was conducted in a peaceful environment.Proham congratulates the Barisan National for securing 133 parliamentary seats to form the Federal government and the Pakatan Rakyat for securing 89 seats and a higher percentage of the popular vote compared to the BN. We note that securing higher votes does not correspond to a similar percentage of the seats in parliament.
Size of ConstituenciesThe variation of votes between some urban and semi-rural and rural is very diversity. One could accept the rational for the small size of voters in a Federal Territory like Putrajay which is only 15,798. However, the example of two other parliamentary seats in urbanized Selangor is more difficult to reconcile, were the variation among the constituencies differ.
A comparison of voters indicate two large a variation between urban, semi-rural and rural constituencies. In Sabak Bernam (P 92) there are 37,390 registered voters as compared to Kapar (P109) which has 144,369 voters. This variation is too great within a very urbanised state like Selangor.Therefore when the EC and Parliament carries out the delineation exercise in the later part of this year, there should be a propionate balance between urban and rural constituencies in terms of number of voters. There must be greater public engagement on this matter.
Election complainsProham notes through media highlights that there are many complaints of phantom voters, election fraud and misconduct. In this context, all parties who are unhappy with any matter pertaining to the conduct of elections should use the appropriate formal channels to file elections petitions so as to file the legal recourse and determine the truth of these allegations.
Citizens right to peaceful expression of dissentProham also recognises that it is within the fundamental right of citizens to express their unhappiness though peaceful assemblies. Proham therefore calls on the Police to exercise greater discretion in not insisting for the 10 day notice as these are peaceful assemblies and in the past the Police have responded positively even at shorter notice. The 10 day notice requirement is viewed as excessive by international human rights standards.
In addition the call for a People’s Tribunal to gather evidence, enhance greater transparency and accountability is consistent with democratic freedoms. Active citizen’s engagement and participation will enhance good governance and ensure greater involvement of citizen’s movements at the grass-roots.Use of Sedition Act inconsistent with PM Najib’s promise to repeal this act
Proham views with concern the use of the sedition act to criminalise speeches in peaceful assemblies. The arrest and detention of Adam Adil for 5 days can be viewed as stifling legitimate dissent in a peaceful way and violation of fundamental liberties. The continual use of the Sedition Act is not consistent with Prime Minister’s earlier promise to repeal it.Furthermore the detention of 18 protestors outside the Jinjang Police station on May 22, 2013 in showing solidarity for Adam Adil is further sign of an emerging hard state suppressing human rights. Proham, therefore calls of the Inspector General of Police to recognise the place for peaceful expressions as a fundamental human right.
Strengthening Parliament and enhancing parliamentary democracyIn the light of the GE 13 results, with no political grouping securing a 2/3 majority in parliament and a stronger representation of the opposition, it is proposed that Parliament be strengthened though the establishment of parliamentary select committees including one for human rights.
It is also our wish as citizens that parliamentarians from both sides of the political divide will operate in a by-partisan way for the common good of the nation.In this context too we propose that the Suhakam annual report and all major findings be discussed in Parliament especially the Suhakam National Inquiry Report on the Land rights of the indigenous people of Sabah, Sarawak and the Orang Asli’s of Peninsular Malaysia.
Appointment of Suhakam commissionersProham echoes its earlier call on the Federal Government for the timely appointment of human rights commissioners as their term ended on April 23, 2013. Proham strongly feels that a non-functioning SUHAKAM is detrimental to the needs of the nation namely to ensure that there is no infringement of human rights and if any to take immediate steps to remedy the same.
In this context Proham calls on the Federal Government to take the speedy action in ensuring the appointment of the new commission with immediate effect.National Reconciliation Agenda
The recent call by Prime Minister Najib for a National Reconciliation Agenda is timely. Proham calls on the Federal Government to institute a participatory mechanism for maximum consultation with all communities and groups.In this context, Proham, calls on all Malaysians to exercise caution and maturity in the use of words and expressions in speech or writing which are not consistent with national harmony and reconciliation. We have great cultural and religious traditions which promote moderation and tolerance. This must be the benchmark of Ministers in the cabinet and by elected members of parliament and also public officials. The leaders must be role models for behaviour which is consistent with reconciliation and harmony.
In addition, Proham recognises that National Reconciliation must be built on the foundation of Inclusive Development for all Malaysians and Human Rights, benchmarked by compliance to international instruments and consistent with the Federal Constitution.In this context, the ratification of the UN Conventions for civil and political rights; the UN convention for Economic, social and cultural rights and the UN convention for the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination is most essential. This act will definitely shift the discussion from political rhetoric to be firmly anchored in a strong commitment for structural and institutional transformation of Malaysian society which is urgently needed after GE 13.
Issued on behalf of Proham by Tan Sri Simon Sipaun (Chairman) and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria Secretary-General) May 23, 2013