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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Proham join hands with 115 other organisations calling AG to drop the charges against Human rights defender - Lena Henry

We, the  116  undersigned  civil society groups, trade unions and organizations are shocked that the Malaysian government, after the recent General Election has resorted to charging human rights defender Lena Hendry on 19 September 2013 for being involved in the screening of a documentary "No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka" at a human rights event in Kuala Lumpur on  9 July 2013.
Lena Hendry was charged for an offence under the Film Censorship Act 2002, in connection with the screening of a video  which  was not  vetted and approved by the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia. If convicted, she faces the sentence of a ‘…fine of not less than five thousand ringgit and not more than thirty thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both…’ She is charged under Section 6 of the Act that makes it an offence to, amongst others, to produce, manufacture, have in one’s possession, circulate, distribute and display such film or film-publicity material which has not been approved by the Board. This may include video material ranging from family videos, videos of political and human rights material including recordings of forums and speeches, videos about citizen rights including the right to free and fair elections or worker rights, and even videos about rights violations in other countries including Palestine.
A ‘…videotape, diskette, laser disc, compact disc, hard disc and other record of a sequence of visual images, being a record capable of being used as a means of showing that sequence as a moving picture, whether or not accompanied by sound…”, is also included in the definition of ‘film’ as provided for in Section 3 of the Film Censorship Act. It is absurd that in Malaysia, the law requires one to get approval of the Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board for all such material.

The Act is also discriminatory as it does not apply, amongst others, to “...any film sponsored by the Federal Government or the Government of any State...”. The government does not need to obtain approval from the Censorship Board, but everyone else is expected to do so. 

At present, the practice of getting approval from the Film Censorship Board usually applies to films screened in cinemas and cineplexes to a paying audience. Even when it comes to television, it is believed that there may be no pre-requirement for getting approval from the Censorship Board for all that is shown except for feature movies.

The charging of Lena Hendry in September 2013 by the Malaysia government is seen as an effort to limit access to information and alternative views particularly those highlighting human rights violations and alternative perspectives. This violates individual and civil society and public rights to information, freedom of expression and opinion. 
If the screening and usage of such material incites a criminal act, or violates another person’s rights, there are existing laws to address this. There is no requirement for any prior government approval or ‘censorship’.

In Reporters Without Borders’ 2013 World Press Freedom Index, Malaysia has fallen to its lowest-ever position because of the decreasing access to information. Malaysia embarrassingly dropped 23 places, and now ranks 145 out of 179.

Article 1 of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms states clearly that “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at  national and international levels.”

Lena Hendry, has the right to ‘…freely  publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms…’, and that should include the right to use films, documentaries and other video materials. 

To advocate a policy or a law that says that film or video material must be pre-approved by the government before it can be used is in itself a violation of principles of human rights and the UN Human Rights Defender Declaration. 

Therefore, we
a)    Call on the Malaysian Government to immediately and unconditionally drop the criminal charges against Lena Hendry;

b)    Call for the repeal of provisions in the Film Censorship Act 2002 that obligates persons to seek approval of the government vis-à-vis the Film Censorship Board before a film, videotape, diskette, laser disc, compact disc, hard disc and other record of a sequence of visual images can be used;

c)  Call on the Malaysian government to recognize, promote and respect human rights, including those contained in the UN Human Rights Defenders Declaration
Charles Hector
Pranom Somwong
For and on behalf the 116 organisations listed below
All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Malaysia
Angkatan Rakyat Muda (ARM), Malaysia
Aksi  For Gender, Social And Ecological Justice, Indonesia
ASEAN Youth Assembly
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, law and Development (APWLD)
Academy of Tamil Studies, Malaysia
Boat People SOS
Burma Partnership
Cambodian Human Rights Association ( ADHOC )
Campaign for a Life of Dignity for All (KAMP), Philippines
Civil Right Committee of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Malaysia
Center for Orang  Asli Concerns (COAC), Malaysia
Centre of Education. Research and Development (CEDAR) Malaysia
Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia
Child Development Initiative Malaysia
Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), Malaysia
Community Action Network, Malaysia
Community Resource Centre
Council of Temples Malaysia
Dapur Jalanan Kuala Lumpur
Dignity International
Empower Foundation, Thailand
Federation of Indian Non-Governmental Organisations
Foundation for Women, Thailand
Friends of Burma, Chiang Mai
Gabungan Pertubuhan-pertubuhan Masyarakat India Selangor
Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas
Group of Concerned Citizens Malaysia
Human Rights Ambassador for, UK
Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) Indonesia
Indian Malaysian Active Generation (IMAGE) Malaysia
Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) , Malaysia
JERIT, Malaysia
Kelab Bangsar Utama, Malaysia
Kesatuan Kebangsaan Pekerja Pekerja Perusahaan Alat Alat Pengangkutan Dan Sekutu(NUTEAIW)
Kesatuan Sekerja Industri Elektronik Wilayah Selatan Semenanjung Malaysia (KSIEWSSM)
Kuala Lumpur Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
Law and Society Trust, Colombo Sri Lanka
LLG Cultural Development Centre, Malaysia
MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
Malaysian Association of Indian University Graduates
Malaysian Dravidian Association
Malaysians for Beng Hock
Malaysian Hindu Youth Council
Malaysian Indian Business Association
Malaysian Indian Development & Unity Association
Malaysian Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
Malaysian Indian Historical Association
Malaysia Indian Progressive Educational Society
Malaysian Indian Youth Development Foundation
Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility
Malaysia Youth & Students Democratic Movement
Malaysia Tamil Artiste Association
MAP Foundation, Thailand
MARUAH, Singapore
Migrant CARE
MTUC(Malaysian Trade Union Congress) Pahang
National Union of Bank Employees, Malaysia (NUBE)
Nationwide Human Development And Research Centre Malaysia
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia ( NAMM)
Network for Democracy and Development
Parti Rakyat Malaysia(PRM)
Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
Pax Romana ICMICA
Peace Institute of Cambodia
Peace Women Across the Globe Indonesia
Peoples' Empowerment Foundation (PEF), Thailand
Peoples Service Organisation (PSO) , Malaysia
Perkumpulan Tafena Tabua, Kupang - Indonesia
Persahabatan Semparuthi Johore, Malaysia 
Persatuan Alumni PBTUSM KL & Selangor
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor (PSWS), Malaysia
Projek Dialog, Malaysia
SABM Melbourne, Australia
Sahabat Rakyat Working Committee, Malaysia
SALT(School of Acting Justly Loving Tenderly and Treading Humbly), Malaysia
Sarawak Dayak Iban Association
Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
Selangor Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
Semparuthi Iyakkam Malaysia
Sisters In Islam, Malaysia
SUARAM (Suara Rakyat Malaysia)
Tenaganita, Malaysia
The Asian Muslim Action Network (Aman) Indonesia
The Association of Women Lawyers, Malaysia
The Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec, Canada
VIVAT International-Indonesia
WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)
Women's Centre for Change (WCC) Penang
Women's Network for the Advancement and Peace, Thailand
Women's Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) Nepal
World Tamil Federation – Malaysian Chapter
Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI), Malaysia
Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association, Thailand
Yayasan LINTAS NUSA Batam - Indonesia
Youth for Peace Cambodia
Advocacy and Policy Institute (API), Cambodia
Labour Behind the Lablel, United Kingdom
Forum for Democracy in Burma
Bersihkan Malaysia Perth, Australia
Women's Aid Organisation, Malaysia
WAC, Phillipines
Housing Rights Task Force, Cambodia.
NLD LA Malaysia
Tourism Employees Association of Maldives" (TEAM)
CEREAL (Centro de Reflexión y Acción Laboral)
Cividep India
Think Centre, Singapore
Kesatuan Pekerja Pekerja Polyplastics Asia Pacific, Malaysia
PROHAM -Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia

Wednesday, 23 October 2013


Mohd Sha'ani Abdullah di perbincangan
Oleh Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria ( Setiausaha Agung, Proham )
Translated from English by Muhammad shaiani Abdullah (Proham member)

Timbul kebimbangan ke atas cara segelintir pegawai awam dan pemimpin NGO yang mengulaskan kedudukan hak asasi manusia dalam masyarakat Malaysia. Ada yang memberi gambaran bahawa Perisytiharan Hak Asasi Manusia Sejagat (UDHR) adalah satu rangka kerja pilihan ataupun tidak benar-benar sejagat dalam sifatnya, yang lain telah merujuk kepadanya sebagai ciptaan barat dan ada yang menggambarkannya sebagai anti atau un-Islamik.

Didapati terlalu sedikit pemahaman mengenai hak asasi manusia di kalangan individu-individu dan kumpulan, sebagai wacana popular mereka seolah-olah separuh benar yang melemahkan semangat dan teras hak asasi manusia dalam masyarakat Malaysia.

Proham amatu bimbang melihat pendapat dan pandangan dikongsi oleh Menteri-menteri dalam kerajaan Persekutuan sekarang atau di kalangan ahli-ahli Parlimen penyokong BN, sertan kakitangan awam persekutuan. Pastinya wujud kegagalan untuk memahami kedudukan hak asasi manusia dalam kehidupan global dan nasional.

Sebagai sorotan menuju proses penilaian UPR Malaysia, Proham menganjurkan satu perbincangan pada 22 Okt 2013 untuk menyemak status hak asasi manusia di Malaysia. Satu pasukan kecil kira-kira 20 orang yang mengambil bahagian dalam perbincangan yang sangat berhasil. Dalam perbincangan ini beberapa tema utama dan kesimpulan telah dikenalpasti.

Proses UPR & pematuhan Hak Asasi Manusia

Proses Penilaian Penggalan Sejabat (Universal Periodic Review, UPR) terdapat beberapa batasan dalam pemahaman oleh kumpulan-kumpulan tertentu. PBB telah memperkenalkan penilian rakan negara-negara anggota PBB melalui satu resolusi PBB pada 2006. Kerajaan, pasukan negara PBB dan masyarakat sivil berpeluang untuk membuat penghujahan. Laporan-laporan ini telah didokumenkan dan boleh didapati di laman web Majlis Hak Asasi Manusia PBB.

Serangan oleh pihak-pihak tertentu ke atas Gabungan NGO-NGO Malaysia untuk UPR (Comango) yang telah menjalankan hak mereka di bawah Perlembagaan Persekutuan serta sejajar dengan garis panduan UPR, tidak boleh diterima dan melanggar hak asasi manusia. Ia juga mendedahkan kejahilan tentang sistem PBB serta proses UPR.

Pada laporan 2013 kerajaan Malaysia ke PBB, telah menunjukkan komitmen Malaysia "untuk menegakkan hak asasi manusia". Malaysia mererima 62 daripada 103 cadangan UPR yang dibuat pada tahun 2009 dan telah membuat ikrar global untuk memenuhinya. Oleh itu, proses UPR pada 24 Okt 2013 di Geneva akan menyediakan Malaysia peluang untuk berkongsi apa yang telah dilaksanakan dan tidak dilaksanakan untuk hak asasi manusia.

Ia adalah penting bagi pegawai-pegawai awam Persekutuan untuk mengambil tahu tentang janji dan komitmen Malaysia dan menilai secara objektif bidang-bidang yang telah membuat pencapaian baik serta juga mengakui bidang-bidang yang kita tidak memenuhi standard global. Ini adalah satu proses yang amat telus dan penilaian hak asasi manusia akan kenalpasti kekuatan dan kelemahan kita.

Oleh itu adalah penting untuk menegaskan bahawa Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib memulakan jawatannya sebagai Perdana Menteri dengan komitmen yang kuat untuk hak asasi manusia. Beliau telah mengambil langkah-langkah tertentu untuk menyediakan perubahan perundangan untuk mematuhi prinsip-prinsip hak asasi manusia. Malaysia kini merupakan ahli Majlis Hak Asasi Manusia PBB dan telah membuat sumbangan kewangan kepada kerja-kerja PBB.

Semasa Proses UPR pertama pada tahun 2009, Malaysia telah membuat beberapa komitmen global yang jelas terhadap hak asasi manusia dan oleh itu kritikan oleh individu-individu dan kumpulan-kumpulan tertentu meletakkan Malaysia dalam keadaan yang sangat buruk dan juga melemahkan inisiatif Perdana Menteri apabila beliau mengambil alih jawatan sebagai PM.

Ia adalah penting untuk mengambil perhatian bahawa Malaysia telah menandatangani Perisytiharan Hak Asasi Manusia Islam Kaherah yang digubal oleh negara-negara anggota OIC. Nampaknya terlalu kecil kesedaran tentang ini terutamanya apabila terdapat banyak kesamaan antara UDHR dan Perisytiharan Kaherah.

Pelan Tindakan Hak Asasi Manusia Kebangsaan

Dalam pembentangan Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, Pengerusi Proham menyatakan bahawa seawal tahun 2001, SUHAKAM telah mencadangkan kepada kerajaan Malaysia untuk melaksanakan Pelan Tindakan Hak Asasi Manusia Kebangsaan. Amat mengecewakan kerana pada tahun 2013 ia masih tidak dilakukan walaupun Malaysia telah membuat komitmen pada tahun 2009 semasa proses UPR pertama. Laporan kerajaan menunjukkan bahawa hanya pada tahun 2012 Bahagian Hal Ehwal Undang-Undang Jabatan Perdana Menteri telah menubuhkan satu jawatankuasa pemandu bagi menyelaras pembangunan pelan tersebut.

Ia telah mengambil lebih satu dekad bagi kerajaan Persekutuan untuk mengambil cadangan SUHAKAM. Kelewatan dalam perlaksanaan ini bercanggah usaha-usaha PM yang penyampaian yang berkesan.

Pengesahan Konvensyen Hak Asasi Manusia PBB

Pengesahan konvensyen teras hak asasi manusia adalah satu lagi bidang utama yang menjadi kebimbangan. Malaysia sebagai sebuah negara adalah terlalu di belakang dalam rekod pengesahan konvensyen hak asasi manusia. Pada tahun 2009 Malaysia menyatakan bahawa ia serius akan mempertimbangkan Konvensyen mengenai hak-hak ekonomi, sosial dan kebudayaan (ICESCR) dan Konvensyen mengenai penghapusan diskriminasi kaum (ICERD). Walau bagaimanapun Malaysia masih ketinggalan dalam melaksanakan ini.

Berbanding dengan negara-negara anggota Asean dan negara-negara OIC kita berada di bawah dari segi pengesahan sembilan konvensyen teras hak asasi manusia. Terdapat keperluan segera bagi Malaysia untuk mewujudkan kesedaran dan pemahaman dalam bidang ini.

Penahanan Tanpa Bicara

Laporan kerajaan menyatakan "langkah-langkah yang lebih drastik yang diambil oleh Kerajaan yang menekankan usaha serius dan komitmen untuk melindungi hak asasi manusia di Malaysia adalah pemansuhan ISA yang paling dikritik ... yang merupakan undang-undang pencegahan"

Walau bagaimanapun pengenalan yang terbaru ini, Akta Pencegahan Jenayah (Pindaan 2013) dengan peruntukan penahanan tanpa perbicaraan dilihat sebagai satu langkah regresif terutamanya perlindungan semakan kehakiman dan akses kepada peguam undang-undang ketara dihadkan.

Akta ini oleh pentadbiran Najib dan justifikasi yang digunakan oleh Kementerian Dalam Negeri dan Polis adalah menunjukkan bagaimana rendah agenda pematuhan hak asasi manusia dalam tangkapan penjenayah yang disyaki dan kumpulan-kumpulan penjenayah.

ProHAM telah mengambil pendiran bahawa kerajaan mesti tegas terhadap jenayah tetapi juga menangani punca jenayah. Ia boleh menjalankan kawalan dan pencegahan jenayah tanpa menjejaskan hak asasi manusia.

Kebebasan Beragama
Terdapat isu-isu utama yang berkaitan dengan kebebasan beragama bagi kedua-dua orang Islam dan bukan Islam.

Laporan negara PBB menyatakan bahawa "peningkatan dalam ideologi Islam konservatif diterajui oleh kerajaan mengancam keupayaan umat Islam untuk mengamalkan agama mereka dalam bentuk dan kandungan daripada yang ditetapkan oleh pihak berkuasa agama."

Datuk A Vathilingam menyatakan bahawa manakala laporan kerajaan Malaysia menonjolkan kedudukan sistem undang-undang Syariah, bagaimanapun ia tidak mengenalpasti isu-isu yang masih tidak dapat diselesaikan berkaitan dengan orang bukan Islam dalam hal-hal memeluk agama Islam atau keluar dari Islam. Ini tidak disebut dalam mana-mana tiga laporan.

Beliau menyatakan bahawa hak penjagaan anak setelah perceraian apabila satu pihak yang baru memeluk agama Islam dan isteri yang tidak; isu pengebumian untuk pengesahan pengakuan memeluk agama Islam si-mati sebelum penukaran mereka dibuat pengetahuan umum terus menjadi membimbangkan.

Menurut beliau punca ini adalah pindaan kepada Perlembagaan Persekutuan Perkara 121 (1A ) ke atas bidang kuasa mahkamah sivil dan Syariah terutama apabila mahkamah sivil tidak mahu menjalankan bidangkuasa di bawah Perlembagaan Persekutuan untuk mendengar kes-kes tersebut.

Perhubung penggunaan perkataan Arab Allah oleh Kristian Berbahasa Malaysia untuk Tuhan, Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam yang tidak menghadiri perbincangan bagaimanapun telah kemukakan secara bertulis pandangan beliau mengenai kebebasan beragama.

Beliau menegaskan bahawa "tiada pelanggaran hak asasi manusia yang penting berbanding dengan penafian hak asasi manusia seseorang untuk memanggil Tuhan dengan apa-apa nama seseorang memilih untuk berbuat demikian. Ini adalah hak asasi manusia dan suci yang mesti dilindungi oleh kerajaan dan semua yang Malaysia, untuk mengekalkan dan meningkatkan perpaduan negara dan seruan PM untuk kesederhanaan. Beliau juga menyatakan bahawa "kita perlu juga melihat bukti sikap tidak bertoleransi Kerajaan terhadap ekstremisme dan pelampau, untuk semua rakyat Malaysia dijamin bahawa Kerajaan benar-benar bermaksud apa yang dikatakan dan berkata apa yang dimaksudkan, supaya tiada yang menyakiti perasaan orang lain"

Proham telah mengambil pendirian bahawa terdapat hakisan kebebasan beragama dengan peningkatan sikap tidak bertoleransi  pegawai-pegawai awam menangani perkara-perkara yang berkaitan dengan agama bukan Islam. Terdapat keperluan mendesak untuk mewujudkan saluran pengantaraan masyarakat berkesan untuk menyelesaikan banyak kebimbangan dalam masyarakat pelbagai etnik dan pelbagai agama.


Tan Sri Simon Sipaun mengakui bahawa "objektif unggul mewujudkan budaya menghormati hak asasi manusia di negara ini masih menjadi mimpi. Walau bagaimanapun menyerah kalah bukannya penyelesaian. Ia juga bukan satu pilihan."

Oleh itu, kita mempunyai tugas bersama dengan Kerajaan dan aktivis hak asasi manusia melalui proses perundingan sebagai rakan dan pembela hak asasi manusia supaya dapat membina sebuah negara dengan komitmen yang tinggi untuk hak asasi manusia, keadilan dan kesaksamaan bagi semua manusia tanpa mengira kaum, agama jantina, asal usul, kelas dan kedudukan sosio-ekonomi.


Denison together with Tan Sri Simon and Datuk Saifuddin
By Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Proham Secretary General)

There is concern in the way some public officials and NGOs have been articulating the place of human rights in Malaysian society. Some indicate that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an optional framework or not really universal in character, others have referred to this as a western notion and some have even given the impression that this is anti or un-Islamic in orientation.
There is very little understanding on human rights among these individuals and groups, as their popular discourse seems to be half-truths which is undermining the very heart and core of human rights in Malaysian society.

Proham is very concerned when such viewed are shared by Ministers in the current Federal government or among Members of Parliament from among the back benchers of the BN, and by federal civil servants. There is definitely a failure to understand the place of human rights in the global and national life.
As a run up to the UPR Malaysia review process, Proham hosted an evening discussion on Oct 22, 2013 to review the status of human right in Malaysia. A small team of about 20 people participated in a very fruitful discussion. In this discussion a number of key themes and conclusions we identified.

UPR Process & Human Rights compliance

On the UPR process there seems to be some limitations in understanding by certain groups. The UN introduced a peer group review of UN member countries. The Government, the UN country team and civil society have opportunities to make submissions. These have been documented and make available on the UN website.
The attacks by certain quarters on the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs for the Universal Periodic Review process (Comango) who are exercising their constitutional rights and who are consistent with the UN guidelines is unacceptable and a violation of human rights. It also revels the ignorance of the UN system as well as UPR process

The Malaysian government’s  2013 report to the UN indicates Malaysia’s commitment “to upholding respect for human rights”. Malaysia accepted 62 of the 103 recommendations made in 2009 and has made a global pledge to fulfil these. Therefore the UPR review on Oct 24, 2013 will provide Malaysia an opportunity to share what it has done and not done for human rights.
It is important for Federal public officials to take cognisance of Malaysia’s pledges and commitment and evaluate in an objective manner our track record nothing areas where we have done well but also recognise that in many areas we have not met global standards. This is a very transparent process and the human rights audit will reveal both our strengthens and weakness

Therefore it is important to reiterate that Prime Minister Najib started his office as PM with a very strong commitment for human rights. He took specific measures to provide legislative changes to laws so as to make it more compliant with human rights. Malaysia is currently a member of the Human Rights Council and has a nation we have made financial contributions to the work of the UN.
In the first UPR review in 2009, Malaysia made some clear global commitments towards human rights and therefore the articulation by certain individuals and groups is putting Malaysia in very bad light and also undermining the initiatives of the Prime Minister when he took office as PM.

It is important to remind Malaysian Muslims that Malaysia co-signed the Cairo Islamic human rights declaration formulated by OIC member countries. There seems to be very little awareness of this especially when there are so many comparable aspects between UDHR with the Cairo declaration

National Human Rights Action Plan
In his presentation Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, the Proham Chairman noted that as far back as 2001, Suhakam had recommended to the Malaysian government to undertake a National Human Rights Action Plan. We are disappointed that in 2013 this has not been done even after Malaysia made a commitment in 2009 at the UN. The government report indicates that it was only in 2012 that the Legal Affairs Division of the Prime Minister’s Department has established a steering committee to coordinate the development of the plan.

It has taken over a decade for the Federal government to take up the recommendation and active of Suhakam. Such slowness in implementation contradicts PM Najib’s effective delivery.

Ratification of UN Human rights conventions

Ratification of core human right conventions is another major area of concern. Malaysia as a nation is embarrassingly behind in our ratification track record. In 2009 Malaysia indicated that it would seriously consider the Convention on economic, social and cultural rights and the convention on the elimination of racial discrimination. However Malaysia has been very slow in undertaking this.
In comparison with Asean countries and OIC countries we are on the bottom of the pile in comparison of ratification of the 9 core human right conventions. There is an urgent need for Malaysia to adequately create awareness and understanding in this area.

Detention without trial
The government report documents “the more drastic measures taken by the Government that underscores its serious efforts and commitment to protect human rights in Malaysia is the repeal of the most criticised ISA… which is a preventive law”

However the most recent introduction of the Prevention of Crime Act (2013) with the provision for detention without trial is seen as a regressive step especially as the safeguards of judicial review and access to legal counsel is tremendously restricted.
This act by the Najib administration and the justification used by both the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Police is indicative of how low the agenda of human rights compliance is in apprehending suspected criminals and underworld gangs.

Proham has taken the position that the government must be tough on crime but also address the root causes of crime. It can undertake crime prevention and control without compromising human rights

Religious Freedom
There are major issues pertaining to religious freedom of both Muslims and non-Muslims.

The UN country report notes that “the rise in state-led conservative Muslim ideology threatened the ability of Muslims to practice their religion in a form and content than as prescribed by the religious authorities”.
Datuk A Vathilingam notes that while the Malaysian government report highlights the place of Syariah legal system it however does not identify the unresolved issues pertaining to non-Muslims over conversion matters to Islam or out of Islam. These are not mentioned in any of the three reports.

He notes that child custody over divorce when one party is a new convert to Islam and the spouse does not convert; the body for burial issue of verification of un-confessed converts to Islam who die before their conversion is made public knowledge continue to be major areas of concern.

 According to him the root cause of this is the amendments to the Federal Constitution Article 121 (1A) on the Civil and Sharia court jurisdiction especially when the civil courts do not want to exercise its Constitutional position in hearing such cases.

On the matter pertaining to the use of the Arabic word Allah by Bahasa Malaysia Christians for God, Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam who did not attend the discussion however submitted in writing his views on religious freedom.

He affirms that “there is no violation of human rights as critical as the denial of one’s basic human right to call God by any name one chooses to do so. This is a fundamental and sacred human right that must be protected by the Government and all Malaysia’s, to preserve and promote national unity and the PM’s call for moderation. He also indicated that “we need to also see evidence of Government’s intolerance of extremism and extremists, for all Malaysians to be assured that Government means what it says and says what it means, for no one to hurt anyone’s feelings”

Proham has taken the position that there is an erosion of religious freedom with a rise of intolerance in the way public officials are handing the matters pertaining to non-Islamic religions. There is an urgent need to establish effective community mediation channels to resolve many of these concerns within a multi religious and multi ethnic society

Tan Sri Simon Sipaun recognises that “the ultimate objective of creating a culture of respect for human rights in this country remains a dream. However giving up is not the solution. It is not an option”.
We therefore have a collaborative task with Government and human rights activist though a consultative process as partners and human right defenders so as to build a nation with a very high commitment to human rights, justice and fairness of all human being irrespective of ethnicity, religion gender, location, class and socio-economic potion.
The panel presentations at the Proham Discussion on UPR & Malaysia hosted on Oct 22, 2013 are available at Proham blog. See

Reflections from Proham Discussion on UPR & Malaysia

UPR & Reports

Malaysia's human rights position is reviewed by the global community at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), led done by the Human Rights Council in Geneva on October 24, 2013.  The country was last reviewed in 2009. There are specific reports on Malaysia and its human rights position over the past years, namely the UPR 2013 Malaysian Government report, the UPR 2013 NGO report and the UPR 2013 UN Malaysia report. 

This Proham discussion is aimed at highlighting the UPR process in enhancing human rights compliance and analysing the content of the three reports. The session also discussed the current status of human rights in Malaysia.

Participants at Proham discussion
About 20 people participated at the Proham discussion. The panel speakers at the session were Proham chairman Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, United Nations (UN) Malaysia Special Coordinator Juanita Lourdes Joseph, Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) chief executive officer Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) head of International Coordination division Rafidah Yahya.
The discussion was moderated by Proham secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria.  Among the attendees were Proham members Datuk Siva Subramanium and Datuk A. Vaithilingam, Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) secretary-general Mohamad Raimi Ab Rahim, ERA Consumer Malaysia human rights director Muhammad Sha'ani Abdullah, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) leader Cynthia Gabriel, representatives from the Australian High Commission and the New Zealand High Commission, and representatives from the Citizens' Network for a Better Malaysia.

Participants at the Proham discussion raised their concerns on six key issues.

Awareness about human rights
More needs to be done to create awareness about human rights, about tools like the UPR and other similar mechanisms.  Materials should not only be in English but also in Bahasa Malaysia.  Malay language newspapers other than Utusan Malaysia must take up the initiative to cover human rights and the UPR.  There is a need to create better discussion, rather than to allow Utusan Malaysia to take the lead, and play up anti-Islam issues and gay rights in relation to the UPR. Having human rights materials and booklets in Malay and in simpler terms also encourages more NGOs to easily understand.  The awareness being promoted currently was wrong that human rights was incompatible to Islam.

More NGOs should submit reports and not only rely on COMANGO as it was unable to cover all areas due to limitations set by the process.  More needs to be done to encourage participation of NGOs in this mechanism and promote better understanding of consultation.
The Home Affairs Ministry must be reminded to study the UPR and reports related to the process, as they seem to have forgotten about Malaysia's commitments.  This is reflected in what some MPs articulate in the Parliament which seem to undermine what Malaysia has done.

Cairo declaration or the UDHR
Malaysia is a signatory to the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights which is endorsed by 50 OIC countries. It is a complementary declaration to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Cairo Declaration one of principles state that all human beings are created by God and should be treated equally, this Declaration is also against any monopoly of business which will help address the monopoly by government-linked companies in Malaysia.

The Declaration also mentions that no one could be forced into any religion, which could be more acceptable compared to UDHR' discussions about the right to change religions. Muslims groups that object to UDHR and make reference to it as being western could find the Cario Declaration providing a strong human rights commitment based on Islamic principles

International Conventions: complying first or ratifying first
Malaysia needs to ratify or accede first to international conventions, before allowing time for legislation to be meet the changes needed for the international treaty.  Ratification gives the country as deadline to push for all legislation to meet the requirements of global treaties. Ensuring compliance of all legislation before ratification is a long and time consuming process, and delays the responsibility of Malaysia towards fulfilling these human rights obligations. This contributes to the country's poor ranking in world indices, compared to OIC countries and lumping Malaysia in the same category as Communist regimes and Zimbabwe.

Independent judiciary in religious issues
The issues of conversion and jurisdiction of the Syariah courts is not captured in any of the three reports. No mention of Article 121 (1A) in the Federal Constitution and the struggles in the submissions by the government, UN or NGOs.  Also, the Syariah courts must be seen to be fair in investigation of non-Muslim cases as cases have shown. The judiciary (in Syariah and civil courts) must be more independent, absolve themselves from personal feelings. This applies to leadership to remain calm and not panic when certain ultras or right-wing leaders make statements.

Indigenous peoples issues
More attention need to be paid to protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly in how indigenous children are treated by teachers and the current school systems.

Existing human rights mechanisms
It is important to look at current mechanisms that exist within government antigenic that were tasked to discuss human rights issues, such as a committee under the government’s Unity Department to promote inter-faith.  Contentious issues such as the Lina Joy and Al-Kitab issues were not discussed in these special committees.  There is need to empower current institutions as avenues to deal with human rights issues and renew commitments to existing agencies. 

Seven key areas were highlighted by the participants:-

  • There needs to be more awareness about human rights and tools like the UPR and other similar mechanisms. Awareness must not only be at ministries in Putrajaya but also at grassroot levels in NGOs and state government agencies. 
  • More NGOs should take part in the UPR process and more needs to be done to promote better understanding of what is involved in a consultation. 
  • Malaysian Muslims who are having difficulties with the UDHR should recognise that Malaysia has also adopted the principles of the Cairo Declaration.
  • Malaysia must consider ratification first for core treaties to fulfil its human rights responsibilities, then move towards gradual change of its legislation to comply with these conventions. This would also help push up its rankings from the bottom half of most global indices. 
  • The importance of an independent judiciary is stressed, when judging religious issues. 
  • Once again, the rights indigenous people were overlooked and more attention needs to be paid to these communities, particularly of their children in current school systems.
  • Existing human rights mechanisms must be relooked and agencies empowered to discuss important issues involving human rights and religious issues.
Ms Susan Tan documented these thoughts based on the Proham discussions held on Oct 22, 2013

UN Malaysia country office & UPR Review

Ms Juanita seated next to Tan Sri Simon
by Ms Juanita Joseph (UN Malaysia Coordination Specialist), UN Country Team in Malaysia

The UN system in Malaysia is represented by the UN Country Team (UNCT) - 10 resident agencies and five non-resident agencies, programmes and funds.  The mandate for human rights is held by the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Bangkok. 

In Malaysia, there is a UN Human Rights and Development Theme Group comprising the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), UN Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

CSOs and the UPR
In 2013, there were 28 submissions for the UPR from various stakeholders such as civil society organisations (CSO) and NGOs, reflecting a growing strength of the NGO movement in Malaysia. The OHCHR compiles all submissions into a single report and it is important to note, that the stakeholders' report  does not contain opinions, judgments, suggestions or determinations by the OHCHR.  The same applies to the UN information compiled by the OHCHR. 

Hence, what NGOs and CSOs would normally do following this, would be to lobby the issues with member states as the UPR process is a member state driven process and it really depends on them, and requires action from these member states.  Some NGOs organise reviews a month or two before the actual UPR process.  The process provides the opportunity for each state to declare what actions they have taken to improve human rights situation in their country and to fulfil their human rights obligations.  The process reminds them of their responsibility towards human rights in their respective countries. The UPR is not legally binding but does make countries accountable.
Malaysian Government & UPR

There is commitment on the part of the government.  The government has formed a technical committee to study and ratify the remaining core conventions.    From our understanding. the department under the Minister in the PM’s department in charge of law, is conducting studies and undertaking research in relation to the national human rights action plan.  The UN would like to see a good connection between the Plan and the outcome of UPR process.
Post UPR & Malaysia

UN is pleased that the Malaysian government had invited the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food in December 2013, whose focus areas include social protection and labour, purchasing power and issues related to development projects and the environment.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Rights was in Malaysia, although not on an official basis, she met with several high ranking officials of government.

In implementing human rights obligations under the conventions and treaties that Malaysia has ratified, the various UN agencies engage with relevant ministries to encourage them to get their reports done on time.
It would be good to have mechanisms in place to monitor and engage the  government during the post-UPR period.  There is a need to increase the level of human rights awareness in Malaysia in order for the UPR to work.

Thoughts shared at the Proham Discussion on the UPR and Malaysia on Oct 22, 2013. The thoughts have been documented by Ms Susan Tan on behalf of Proham

Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah on GMM, Human Rights, UPR & Malaysia

Datuk Saifuddin sharing his views at the Proham Discussion on Oct 22, 2013
GMM's role internationally and domestically

The GMM is a foundation formed by Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Najib Razak  to promote moderation as an idea and principle in international relations, used as Malaysia’s offerings to UN members, as part of a lobby to secure one of the non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council (UNSC) in 2015. 

GMM is not just about international relations, and even it is so, Malaysia has to clean up its own backyard. GMM is formed as part of transition in Malaysia’s role on the international stage, not just because Malaysia wants to be part of the UNSC and to assume chairmanship of Asean in 2015, the PM wants a more active role on international front as it is normally expected when a country starts to become a developed country. 

Human rights is one of the issue being questioned at the international stage and people would ask how is it that Malaysia is not acceding to many of the core human rights conventions.

Malaysia's standing among member nations of world, being party to some human rights convention is not very interesting.  Malaysia has successfully scored very low in all of the rankings, eight out of 10 in Asean, bottom of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries (55/55),  second last place in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and 187 out of 195 in member states after 2009.  It's not numbers that Malaysia could be proud of. 
Malaysia Progressive Human Rights Role Internationally
When it comes to certain human rights issues, Malaysia tend to play a positive role like supporting the Rohingyas, refugees from the Southern Philippines and southern Thailand, playing a part in humanitarian aid during the ethnic cleansing incidents in Bosnia.  Uncertain why among diplomatic network, they say when they inform their capital, that they were concerned with human rights issues, the capital replies, “I thought Malaysia is doing quite well.” 
Malaysia seems to be able to show a progressive front but at the same time, Malaysia seems to practise as a very low denominator in human rights areas. This paradox has become more glaring, especially at a time when the PM on the one hand wants to be progressive. But at the same time, not withstanding the UMNO elections as Ministers make all types of statements, if these get out to the public it's not going to help Malaysia's profile in human rights affairs.

Human Rights in Domestic aspects

Malaysia needs to encourage the Malaysian leaderships, government and officers, to motivate them to do more when it comes to human rights.  At one level, Malaysia needs to address one or two Ministers, especially those in charge of important portfolios and several Barisan Nasional MPs.  Malaysia needs a good strategy to identify the Mps to work with and encourage the formation of human rights caucuses and other related groups.   Consultation is not something government officers understand very well, they probably understand it by the definition, “So long I meet you it's consultation.” As and when the government say they consult, it must be asked, what is the meaning of consultation. It could be a meeting to inform people and not as most human rights advocates understand it. 
Future of Human Rights in Malaysia

Malaysia needs to strategies how to get support for some of the proposals here by Suhakam and the CSOs, on the National Human Rights Plan and the Parliamentary Select Committee.  Getting the Suhakam report debated in the Parliament, it would take time before the government takes it on as an agenda. Perhaps the human rights network could strategise if people could debate this report in some way or another, may not be as fulfilling as being discussed in the Parliament, but it is a start.  T
he Law Reform Commission should be revisited, on whether the new appointees of the human rights portfolios in the government were as enthusiastic as the last.  A timeline is needed to monitor the government's commitments to the UPR outcomes.  More CSOs should come on board in the future UPR processes.
Thoughts documented by Ms Susan Tan for Proham. Views shared by Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah (GMM, CEO) at the Proham discussion on the UPR on Oct 22, 2013