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Friday, 11 April 2014

UPR process: We got peanuts, says Proham

By Jaqueline P'ng

KUALA LUMPUR (April 11, 2014):

Malaysia claims to support 60% of recommendations put forth by The United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, but in actual fact, it has only accepted 12% or lower, said Proham secretariat Rama Ramanathan.

"We didn't get a big coconut, but we thought we have at least a medium one, but when you look closely at what has been accepted, we only got peanuts."

The UPR process carried out in March 20 at Geneva had put Malaysia's human rights records on the table for UN member states to examine and make recommendations.

In this second round of review, the government reportedly accepted 150 of 238 recommendations and rejected 83 of which included calls for immediate change of laws, regulations and policies or matters in which the governemnt was not prepared to consider or commit to implement at this juncture.

Rama making his presentation at the Proham RTD on UPR
However, Rama who is also a data analyst, pointed out that among the 150 recommendations agreed upon, only 92 were weak recommendations, 6 were considered "so-so" and only 15 of 121 strong recommendations were accepted.

"Weak recommendation are those that starts with phrases like 'continue to', 'carry on to', 'enhance' or 'consider'. This is like a pat on the shoulder, telling government to continue doing what its doing. 'So-so' meant asking the government to put more resources on a certain effort. Strong recommendations are those that explicitly want the government to 'stop' doing something or change its laws," he said during a discussion organised by The Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMMF).

His study on the report also shows that Asean nations are adopting a "don't ask, don't tell" policy and are reluctant to give recommendations to their neighbours, contributing only 12% of recommendations Malaysia received, whereas G20 nations (75%) and input from the Organisation of Islamic Country (OIC) made up 24% of total recommendations.

Bar Council Human Rights Committee chairman Andrew Khoo also noted that Asean countries are prioritising policy first rather than maintaining friendship among member state.

"Both Indonesia and Philippines have called upon Malaysia to improve rights and working conditions of migrant workers, as well as ensure protection of their family. Malaysia said 'no' to these recommendations."

Moreover, recommendations falling under the 'special groups' such as LGBT rights and indigenous groups, 17 of 31 strong recommendations were rejected.

"The government rejected recommendations on improving indigenous people's rights on grounds that a task force is already in place to do so and it doesn't want to muddle the water with accepting the recommendations. Then again, they could have chosen to 'accept in principle' or 'accept in part', rather than out right rejecting it," Khoo added.

Similarly, Malaysia had also rejected recommendations regarding the abolition of the death penalty, so is temporary moratorium on all executions.

"On one hand the government says it's reviewing the mandatory death penalty, and we manage to obtain a reprieve from the Sultan to halt execution of inmates, now we reject recommendation to abolition of death sentence. The logic doesn't float through."

Jerald Joseph of Pusat Komas representing the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (Comango) said that there is still much to do in the run up to the next UPR process in 2018.

"The government said that its rejection towards certain recommendation doesn't not mean the doors are closed and there are still room for discussion. We can only rely upon that bit of positive statement. We'll need to monitor the accepted recommendations, engage on 'rejection list' and better coordinate among NGOs."

Besides that, he added that the government must come out to clear the misinformation spread by Coalition of Muslim NGOs in the UPR Process (Mupro), which accused Comango of attacking its own government on international platform.

"It is a common practice round the world where NGOs are critical of their own government and UPR Process is not a place where countries hurl attacks at each other's sovereignty. The Malaysian government knows that, but it doesn't tell the public," he lamented.


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