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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Work together to promote religious harmony, urges Proham

Federal and state governments should put aside their political differences and rivalry to work together to promote religious harmony and help ease escalating tensions, said the Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham).

“Proham condemns all acts of violence and intolerance such as cocktail bombs, burning effigies, hate speeches, and provocation.

“The Prime Minister and Chief Ministers from across the political divide should jointly affirm religious freedom and call for a stop to threats, provocation, acts of violence, hate speeches and all other acts which incite hatred.

“It is sad to note that there are very few national and state leaders who have come out to denounce these acts of intolerance and call for peace,” Proham executive committee member Datuk Kuthbul Zaman Bukhari and secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria said in a joint statement yesterday.

They also called on former prime ministers, chief justices and former ministers to play their part as “elder statesmen” to defuse racial and religious enmity and strife.

“Malaysia needs more bridge builders and peace ambassadors who will foster tolerance, appreciation and reconciliation.

“The authorities, especially the police and Islamic religious institutions of the federal and state governments, should adopt a more compassionate rather than legalistic approach which promotes and fosters the true spirit of Islam on matters affecting religious and cultural rights of minorities,” they added.

The association also expressed “deep regret over the recent efforts by certain parties to distort and orchestrate ill-will and misunderstanding” over the use of certain words in the Bahasa Malaysia and Indonesia versions of the Bible.

“The raids by religious authorities on minority religious institutions have raised constitutional questions. The actions may be deemed as unconstitutional acts, undermining religious freedom as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution,” they said.

PETALING JAYA: (Star Jan 30, 2014)


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Proham & Religious Freedom in Malaysia

Proham condemns all acts of violence and intolerance & Calls on all parties
to seek pragmatic solutions in matters pertaining to Religious Freedom in Malaysia

 Proham condemns all acts of violence and intolerance such as cocktail bombs, burning effigies, hate speeches, and provocations. Such acts negatively impact national unity, freedoms and liberties of religious and ethnic minority communities in Malaysia.
Proham deeply regrets the recent efforts by certain parties to distort and orchestrate ill will and misunderstanding in Malaysian society over the use of certain words in the Bahasa Malaysia and Indonesia versions of the Bible.

The raids by religious authorities on minority religious institutions have raised constitutional questions. The actions may be deemed as unconstitutional acts which is undermining religious freedom as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.  Such acts of intolerance must not be permitted in peaceful Malaysia.
Proham calls upon relevant authorities to take appropriate action which is just and fair. It is sad to note that there are very few national and state leaders who have come in the open to denounce these acts of intolerance and call for peace.

Proham reminds the Malaysian authorities on the efforts taken by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in promoting  “Resolution 16/18 on Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief” in the United Nations.
The UN adopted this resolution on April 12, 2011 and Malaysia is a party to this resolution which is based on the fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations “to promote and encourage universal respect for and observance of all human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction” including “the obligation of States to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion or belief and implement measures to guarantee the equal and effective protection of the law”

While this is a non-binding resolution, it is however a major global consensus statement on discrimination concerns especially over how Islam and Muslims minorities are treated in some Western societies.
A similar application of this principle based on the United Nations consensus must be respected, protected and defended in Malaysian society. It is this context that Proham wants to reiterates the following:

·         That Malaysia has both a legal and historical tradition of mutual respect for religious freedom and cultural diversity. This is constitutionally protected in the Federal Constitution, Article 3 which states that “Islam is the religion of the Federation but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation” and Article 11 (1) which states that “Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and subject to clause (4) to propagate it”

·         That Malaysia is rich in cultural diversity especially in ethnic, religious and linguistic dimensions. This diversity includes a unique fact that 60% of Malaysian Christians are Bahasa Malaysia speaking and are indigenous to Sabah and Sarawak. Many of them now live in Peninsula Malaysia since the formation of Malaysia. They form the sizable Bahasa Malaysia speaking churches in Peninsula Malaysia especially in the Klang valley.

·         That the Ten Point Solution pertaining to Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia provides a practical solution. undertaken by the Prime Minister of Malaysia on behalf of the Federal Government on April 11, 2011, However the recent statement made by the Prime Minister on Jan 24, 2014 which includes a new qualifier to the Ten Point Solution namely “subjected to state laws” This position does not provides any practical solution to the use of Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesian bibles among Christian minorities especially in Peninsula Malaysia.

In this context Proham calls on:
·         The Prime Minister and Chief Ministers from across the ‘political divide’ to jointly affirm religious freedom and call for a stop to threats, provocations, acts of violence, hate speeches and all other acts which incitw hatred. Working together as national leaders in a by-partisan manner is essential for nation building. Both the Federal government and state governments must work together as national leaders for the best interest of the nation setting aside political differences and rivalry.

·         The former Prime Ministers, Chief Justices and former Ministers to emerge in Malaysian society as elder statements to defuse racial and religious enmity and strive. Malaysia needs more bridge builders and peace ambassador who will foster tolerance, appreciation and reconciliation
·         The authorities especially the Police and Islamic religious institution of the Federal and state governments to adopt a more compassionate rather than legalistic approaches which promotes and fosters the true spirit of Islam on matters affecting religious and cultural rights of minorities.

·         All Malaysians to exercise caution, humility and patience in matters pertaining to religious and cultural rights so as to affirm both our rights as well as our responsibilities as Malaysian citizens

Proham recognises that Malaysia is a great land and we must remain so by cherishing peace, harmony and reconciliation for the greater good of our nation.

Issued on behalf of Proham by Datuk Kuthbul Zaman Bukhari (Proham Exco) and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Proham Secretary General)
Jan 29, 2014

Sunday, 26 January 2014


The Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) & The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (PROHAM) are jointly organising a Dialogue for Harmony  in conjunction with the World Interfaith Harmony Week (Feb 1-7, 2014).

“Mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue

constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace”

Date:                            Feb 5, 2014 (Wed)
Time:                            2.00pm to 4.40pm

Venue:                          Global Movement of Moderates : 15th Floor, Menara Manulife,  No. 6, Jalan Gelenggang,  Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur,
Panel Moderators:          Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah & Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria

(Panel speakers are being confirmed, will be announced soon)

There is unfortunately, an orchestration of disharmony and ill will by certain quarters in Malaysian society. This breeds enmity, misunderstanding and conflict. There is a need for Malaysians to display an alternative dialogue or conversation that while we agree or disagree we do this in humility and mutual respect.

We are hosting this Dialogue for Harmony in line with the United Nations agenda to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith. The UN recognised this need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people

During this World Interfaith Harmony Week which was aside by the UN General Assembly on Oct 20, 2010, the UN encourages “all States to support the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship, on a voluntary basis and according to their own religious traditions or convictions”.

With this in mind both GMM & Proham is inviting all the leaders of religious institutions, voluntary and civil society movements committed to fostering interfaith harmony to come for a discussion and time of reflection on strengthening peace and harmony in Malaysian society and the region.

This can be effectively built on our collective understanding of the Rukunegara and Federal Constitution as well as our commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights and the Asean Human Rights Declaration in addition to UN Resolution 16/18 on ‘Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief’ which was proposed to the UN General assembly by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and adopted on April 12, 2011
Let us together during this Harmony Week reach out in compassion, mutual respect and build a ‘nation of peace’ for all Malaysians.

For registration & Information please contact Rama Ramanathan- Email: or SMS mobile: 012 2887147

For more information on UN week please check out:

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Malaysia needs a Mandela to break out racial politics’

FZBy vichitra | FZ

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 22): Malaysia needs a leader like Nelson Mandela to turn the country away from an overdose of politics based on race and religion, said the chairman of the Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) Tan Sri Simon Sipaun.

The world-famous icon of resistance against the apartheid regime of South Africa had no tolerance for racial discrimination, and was resolute in his principles even when he had to speak against the popular view, said Simon. These are his important legacies for Malaysian leaders.

Simon said that Mandela's leadership style would not tolerate discrimination based on race and religion and he was also against black supremacy. "Unlike Umno, the backbone of the BN (Barisan Nasional) government that promotes Malay supremacy," he said.

"Mandela’s type of leadership and sense of justice would not allow such a situation to happen. Malaysia, in my view, needs a Mandela. It is time for this country to turn away from the overdose of politics based on race and religion," he said at a roundtable discussion on Nelson Mandela's legacy on Monday night.

Simon, who was born in North Borneo 25 years before Malaysia was formed, said that he did not expect that Malaysia would become a country that promotes "Ketuanan Melayu" (Malay supremacy), and in which the majority race can claim superiority over other races.

"Even though the Federal Constitution provides for the special position of the majority race, there was no such thing in North Borneo. If this is not institutionalised racism, I don't know what is," Simon said, adding that he wished there were a Nelson Mandela among the founding fathers who drafted the Federal Constitution.

Without mincing his words, Simon said the Orang Asli were subjected to a system akin to the apartheid policy implemented in the South Africa in 1947.

He said that the Orang Asli were marginalised, and the main objective of the Orang Asli Development Department was to assimilate the Orang Asli into the Malay community through conversion to Islam.

Simon also pointed out that Malaysia needed "Malaysian leaders, not leaders for the Chinese, Malays, Indians or minorities, or else we will be continue to compartialised."
Mandela passed away on Dec 5, 2013. He was the first black President of South Africa, and was jailed for 27 years on the infamous Robben Island for his ideals.

At the roundtable, the South African High Commissioner Thami Mseleku said that Mandela was a resolute leader who would uphold his principles, and speak against the popular view.

For example, he said, Mandela went against all his colleagues' wishes to talk alone with the government and did not reveal the content of the meetings.

Also, he was a leader with compassion who remembered every person he met.
And above all, Mseleku said, the greatest legacy he left was democracy in South Africa in which everyone was free to say anything about his legacy, to agree or disagree, and nobody would be jailed for criticising Mandela.

Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, chairman of the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) said that the revolutionary Mandela had inspired him to join politics.
He felt that Mandela had followed Prophet Mohammad's footsteps through his humility, and by forgiving his enemies.

Saifuddin said that Mandela showed a leadership style that dared to be different from the majority, while most of the leaders we have would not go against their colleagues who are on a different page.
He cited an example in which Mandela used rugby, the white man's game, to unite the people. The example was showcased in the movie Invictus.

"In Malaysia, we have basketball, predominantly played by Chinese, and the Chinese hold the economy. I am not being racist here, just stating a fact. We can’t even make basketball a compulsory event in Sukan Malaysia," he said.

He stressed that the Ministry of Youth and Sports could follow Mandela's footsteps to use sports as a platform for unity. "If he can use rugby, why can't we use basketball?"

The roundtable entitled “Legacy of Nelson Mandela: Teaching People to Love One Another,” was jointly organised by Proham and GMM.

The other speaker was Prof KS Nathan who used a global perspective to look at Mandela's struggle to end the apartheid policy.

The discussion was moderated by Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, secretary-general of Proham. About 30 people attended the discussion.

 – Wed, Jan 22, 2014

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Perception - Rich & Poor Reality

Poster at the Dec 31, 2013

Kuala Lumpur TURUN Protest

Proham calls on the Political leadership of the Federal government to be true defenders of human rights

Proham views with serious concern the lack of political leadership and commitment in ensuring that human rights is well promoted, respected and protected in Malaysian society.

Three recent incidences display that human rights and fundamental liberties are under threat. The suspension of the printing permit of the weekly ‘The Heat’ by the Ministry of Home Affairs; the issues surrounding the rights to peaceful assembly against rising prices and the raid by Islamic religious officials on The Bible Society and confiscation of Bibles are trampling religious liberty issues.
All three incidences pertaining to media freedom, peaceful demonstrations & religious freedom have negative implications for citizens’ rights in a democratic society governed under the Federal Constitution. The actions have been carried out by civil servants employed by the Federal or state governments.

It is the duty of the Prime Minister as head of the Federal government and a Menteri Besar in the case of state agencies who must provide political leadership in addressing these concerns. The authorities under their jurisdiction must be held accountable to public officials who are elected by the people.
There is a need for political leadership which can transcend political parties in a by-partisan tradition  in the best interest of the nation so as to ensure that Malaysia is a nation that will truly embody democratic freedoms and inter religious harmony.

Tolerance to alternative views, enlarging democratic space, protection of minority religious and cultural rights are essential components of human rights & good governance. These are election pledges made by all the major political parties through their election manifestos during the GE13.
In addition, Malaysia preaches moderation globally and has made international commitments to upholding human rights at the United Nations especially during the Universal Periodical Review. We must practice this within Malaysia and not allow certain individuals whether within the administration or society to undermine national unity, peace and harmony.

It is in this context that the silence of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet is really unfortunate and is further undermining human rights and good governance.
Proham therefore calls on all political leaders in public office, senior civil servants, and civil society leaders including religious leaders to work together in building a better Malaysia for all.

We have started 2014 on a bad footing trampling human rights; however as Malaysians we must rise to defend the Federal Constitution within the democratic tradition.
Proham calls on the Prime Minister to take immediate steps to strengthen human rights and fundamental liberties put a stop to officials who are violating human rights and hold them accountable for their actions. In addition what is urgently needed is the long term formulation of the Human Rights Action Plan which is long overdue.

Issued on behalf of Proham by:
Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, Prof Datuk Hamdan Adnan, Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Proham Secretary General)

Jan 5, 2014

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Poverty: Hope beyond handouts

by lim chia ying (STAR Jan 2, 2014)

Dr Denison Jayasooria says that income alone isn’t a sufficient measure of poverty, and that there needs to be a more multifaceted approach that involves the entire system of public policy.
Dr Denison Jayasooria says that income alone isn’t a sufficient measure of poverty, and that there needs to be a more multifaceted approach that involves the entire system of public policy.
It takes more than charity to address the issue of poverty. A recent workshop shed light on how public policies should consider and impact the urban poor.

MOST of us would applaud charitable actions like giving food to the poor, right? But Josie Fernandez hates it when she hears of orang asal communities being given handouts, especially food.
This is because a visit to an orang asal village in Tanjung Malim, Perak, many years ago made her rethink what the word “poor” means to different communities. The orang asal might live very sparsely by hunting, growing their own crops, fishing, and sharing whatever food they can harvest, but does that mean they are poor?

“While they spoke a lot then about sharing (including the occasional hampers that came from well-meaning folk), they did not once raise concerns that they were poor. It struck me that we were the ones who brought them the notion of being trapped in poverty, and the subsequent answer to solving that ‘problem’ is charity.

Josie Fernandez says the for too long, the fundamental flaw has been rooted in the belief that charity will help resolve the issue of poverty.
Josie Fernandez says the for too long, the fundamental flaw has been rooted in the belief that charity will help resolve the issue of poverty.
“Deforestation and land grabs have forced them out of lands that they used to depend on for their survival and income, and shifting them into boxy terrace houses without livelihood options only drives them to become part of the country’s urban poor. There are utility bills to be paid, for example, but how can they afford to do that when they have little equitable access to employment?” says Fernandez, an activist, researcher and advocate of causes relating to indigenous people, the environment and anti-corruption.

As well as being the special representative for the Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (SCRIPS), Fernandez has worked with various orang asal groups like the Jakun of Tasik Chini, Pahang, on gaining rights rather than handouts.

Though handouts and other charitable acts are done out of kindness, the supplies – especially food supplies – can realistically last only a few days while the orang asal’s situation will not change in the long run, she points out.

“For too long, the fundamental flaw has been rooted in the belief that charity will help resolve the issue of poverty,” says Fernandez.

“But we can never have successful poverty eradication programmes if the poor have no claims to rights that are provided for judicially and constitutionally. The rights to land, food and water, housing, education and healthcare must be equally available to all so that people can live lives of dignity.

LEAD PIX, TRY ETCHING HER OUT AND USING BIG AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE: What's in her future: It's easy to put smiles on the faces of orang asal children like this one with hampers and handouts. But charity isn't a sustainable solution to the problem of poverty. -- File photos
What’s in her future: It’s easy to put smiles on the faces of orang asal children like this one with hampers  and handouts. But charity isn’t a sustainable solution to the problem of poverty. – File photo
“Merely providing for the minimum human existence pushes people into the mindset of constantly seeking bantuan (assistance). When they queue up for bantuan, it’s an indication that people do not have enough to feed their families.

“Do our policymakers formulate and implement policies that emphasise these rights with a framework that translates into social and economic justice for everyone?

“It must also be stressed that political justice means that no one, especially the poor, should be excluded from political participation as it is politics that will shape the implementation of legal and institutional policies. We need bureaucrats who understand the language of rights in order to develop policies that will ensure a (good) quality of life for all Malaysians.

“While strategic philanthropy may be used to empower communities towards sustainability, charity has no place in poverty eradication,” she reiterates.

Fernandez was speaking to an audience made up of representatives from non-governmental organisations and government departments at a recent workshop on urban poverty, public policy and community-based development. It was organised jointly by COMMACT (the Common Wealth Network for People-Centred Development) Malaysia and the Economics Faculty and the Institute of Ethnic Studies of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Commact Malaysia president Prof Datuk Yusof Karim, in delivering his paper entitled “People-Centred Development as the Core Thrust of Public Policy”, stressed that there is a real need to shift the country’s current production-centred development to people-centred development.

“People-centred development necessitates the participation of locals in any development initiative process and decision-making. Essentially, this makes the people the beneficiaries, giving them a say in the use of resources.

“A development can only be effective if it’s based on people’s wants and needs rather than our pre-conceived ideas about what they want. Right now, people-centred development is placed on the periphery of the process rather than the centre,” says Prof Yusof, a development economist who has been researching poverty for much of his academic life.

Some of his studies reveal “a disparity between statistical figures compiled on the poor and realistic figures on ground”. For instance, many of the urban poor we see nowadays are people who have migrated from rural areas. His studies have also shown that the poor are not the old but young men who have no skills or resources.

As such, Prof Yusof asks why we are not addressing the very root of the problem: what is lacking in rural areas that is making people move into urban areas?
He says people-centred development should be made the core thrust of public policy because the well-being of mankind is the essence of development. And while economic growth is recognised as a necessity, it is not sufficient to eradicate poverty without the integration of economic and social policies.

“Development should be inclusive, not exclusive. The way forward is to allow people to have more say, and we should seek to blend the desirable and feasible. This calls for us to intensify efforts that will increase awareness about people-centred developments.”

Also present at the workshop was UKM’s Institute of Ethnic Studies principal research fellow and Society for the Promotion of Human Rights secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria who pointed out that one of the most prominent urban poor groups are the low-cost flat dwellers, those who have been resettled originally from squatter areas and, later, temporary longhouses.

“For many of them, high-rise living is not by choice but a matter of public policy,” he says.
His group did a community neighbourhood profile questionnaire among nine low-cost flats – five in Selangor, two in Kuala Lumpur, and one each in Perak and Penang – to identify the positive aspects of urban flat living and challenges these flat-dwellers face.

The study revealed that there are four main issues plaguing the flat-dwellers: a low quality of life, lack of infrastructure, a lack of communal living, and an increase in social ills; another problem raised was the lack of recognition of grassroot leaders. For these people accustomed to village-style communal living, one of the worst aspects of living in these low-cost high-rises is the vanishing sense of belonging and identity.

“We can reach the status of a high-income nation but if nothing is done to address these grave issues, then what we’ll eventually have are ghettos where children of these backgrounds may never achieve the kind of academic performance of their peers from middle or high-income families, and the hidden poor suffer in silence. Statistics may show a low poverty (rate) but in reality, deprivation persists,” he says, adding that income alone isn’t a sufficient measure of poverty, there has to be a more multi-faceted approach that involves a whole complex system of public policy.

“The only way for social mobility to take place is through education, skills training and better job placements,” Dr Jayasooria says.
Bukit Gasing assemblyman Rajiv Rishakaran, the workshop’s last speaker, said the challenge in moving forward with public housing is that many have no passion to deal with people who are in need of these housing. “It’s not about the standard operating procedures. Most of the (low-cost flat) dwellers have no understanding of how the procedures work, while there’s also frustration on the government end when the monthly rental fees are not paid.

“The dilemma is if these tenants should be evicted, where would or could they go? A lot of misunderstanding still happens between government mechanisms and the very people who require its services.

“We also do not have officers on the ground to look into (collection of) the rental payments, and evaluating people who have been previously assisted to see if they have risen up the economic chain,” he explains.