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Saturday, 26 July 2014

‘Level-headed people won’t oppose Negara-Ku’

Simon Sipaun

By  Free Malaysia Today  | July 26, 2014       
No reason why the NGO Negara-Ku should be opposed by any level-headed and right-thinking Malaysian, says former Sabah state secretary.

KOTA KINABALU:Former Sabah state secretary Simon Sipaun, 76, said he decided to be a patron of the newly-launched NGO Negara-Ku because the objectives are worth supporting to make the country a better place for every citizen irrespective of race to live in.

Simon said he became patron after Negara-Ku steering committee member Jerald Joseph contacted him just before its launch recently. “They were looking for a person from Sabah to be one of the patrons. My role is essentially ceremonial,” he said.

Negara-Ku chairman Zaid Kamaruddin confirmed last Thursday that Simon would be a patron of the NGO. The former Suhakam vice-chairman, who is now a MACC adviser, sees no reason why Negara-Ku should be opposed by any level-headed and right-thinking Malaysian.

“National unity and integration which is so important and essential in a plural society continues to be an elusive dream and vision in Malaysia. “This is despite having a minister in charge of national unity, a department of national unity and national integration and a national unity consultative council,” he said.

He added that there was a lack of political will and strong national leadership for integration to take place. “We need national Malaysian and not racial leaders,” said Simon.
He said the country needed a Mandela-type of leadership which did not condone discrimination based on race and religion.

“Mandela, despite the temptation, never advocated black supremacy or one community claiming superiority over others,” he added. Simon said he was confident that the country would have a better and brighter future if it turned away from an overdose of politics based on race and religion.
“It must embrace good governance and the citizens must be made to feel that the government truly cares for them,” he said.

The two other patrons of Negara-Ku are novelist A. Samad Said and former Bar Council chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan.

Tan Sri Simon Sipaun was the Founding Chairman of Proham


Friday, 18 July 2014

Proham calls on all Malaysians to be in solidarity in this hour of national tragedy

Proham expresses deepest condolences to all the families who have lost loved ones in the MH17 tragedy.

Proham conveys our deepest sympathy to MAS and the Government of Malaysia during this difficult time.

Proham records appreciation to the Prime Minister, Dator Seri Najib for his immediate responses and in contacting the global community  leaders including the United States and  Russia Presidents and Ukraine Prime Minister and also the UN Secretary General for their assistance and immediate action

Proham also acknowledges that at a time of national tragedy and sorrow we must as Malaysians unite in solidarity and therefore the emergency parliamentary session is timely for By-partisan cooperation and solidarity.

Proham together with many others condemn this attack on a commercial and civilian aircraft as a criminal act and call on the international community to undertake appropriate intervention to investigate and bring the guilty to trial and ensure justice is done for all the people affected.

The gunning down of MH17 is ‘a crime against humanity’, a clear violation of human rights and inconsistent of conduct during a conflict or in times of war. 

Therefore, Proham calls the global community to stand in solidarity with Malaysia at this hour of national and international sorrow.

Issued on behalf of Proham by

Datuk Kuthubul Zaman (Proham Chairman) &
Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (proham Secretary General)

July 19, 2014

ASEAN DAY: Building a People centered ASEAN

Global Movement of Moderates (GMM)
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham),
Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (ASLI) and
ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF)


ASEAN DAY: Building a People centered ASEAN on the foundation of
Human Rights, Inclusive & Sustainable development

Date:                August 8, 2014 (Friday)

Time:               9.30am – 12.30pm

Venue:             GMM Board Room
15th Floor, Menara Manulife
                        No. 6, Jalan Gelenggang, Damansara Heights, KL

Forty seven years ago on August 8, 1967 ASEAN was formed and now has set the agenda of establishing the ASEAN Community by 2015. Next year Malaysia is also the Chair of ASEAN and therefore Malaysia will play a major role in shaping the future of ASEAN.

In this context of fostering greater awareness of the ASEAN region, GMM and Proham is hosting a Roundtable Discussion on building a People’s ASEAN. The important foundations for this are human rights, inclusive and sustainable development for all the people of ASEAN.

This roundtable discussion seeks to provide a platform to achieve the following objectives:

·      To enhance understanding of the role played by Civil Society Organizations in ASEAN;

·      To gather response and opinion from experts and stakeholder leaders with different backgrounds on how to advance ASEAN people’s solidarity during the Chairmanship of ASEAN by Malaysia

·      To invite the panelists to share their reflections


Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah (GMM) & Datuk Denison Jayasooria (Proham)

Panel Speakers:

Each panelist will be given a maximum of five (5) minutes to share their reflections.

1)       Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari
Chairman, Proham

2)       Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah

3)       Tan Sri Michael Yeoh
CEO of ASLI & Chairman of WCEF

4)       Mr Jerald Joseph
Director, Pusat Komas

5)       Tan Sri Dato' Seri Panglima Mohd Azumi Mohamed
Board of Trustees, Perdana Global Peace Foundation

6)       Mr Roger Chan
BAR Council

7)       Datin Paduka Marina Mahatir
Sisters in Islam

8)       Mr Michael Teoh
TEDxKL Founding Curators & Trainer & Speaker on Gen-Y Talents Development

9)       Ms Ellyne Lamin
Social Enterprise Alliance Malaysia 

10)   Dr Farah Nini Dusuki
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University Malaya

11)   Mr Wan Saiful Wan Jan
CEO, Ideas

For further enquiries and reservation, kindly contact:

GMM Programmes Division, Mr. Afandi Rafi
Tel +603 2095 1115, Email

Friday, 11 July 2014

Retaining power through elections: when “democracy” enables autocracy

Lecture by Prof Dr Sarah Birch, followed by questions and comments from the floor moderated by Dr Wong Chin Huat, Fellow, Penang Institute,

Date:            Sunday, 13 July 2013
Time:            2.30 pm – 4.30 pm
Venue:          Auditorium, Kuala Lumpur Chinese Assembly Hall
                    1 Jalan Maharajalela
                     Kampung Attap
                     50150 Kuala Lumpur

Proham (Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, Malaysia)
BERSIH 2.0 (Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0)
Civil Rights Committee of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.


Please email with your name, organization and designation. You may also indicate “concerned citizen.”

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Proham backs the people’s movement for national unity

Datuk Kuthubul and Datuk Denison at the Religious Freedom in Asean Consultation

Proham supports the new movement Negara Ku. This is a people’s movement towards harmony and reconciliation. This is the way forward as we celebrate our 57th Independence day and 51st Malaysia day

We recognise that people from all the communities in Malaysia are important. This includes Malays, Chinese, Indians, the Orang Asli of the Peninsular and the people of Sabah and Sarawak. We are diverse but we are one as the Malaysian people
We recognise the unique nature of Malaysian society and the community consensus we have reached in difficult areas such as religion, language, special measures and our loyalty to the monarchy. These are enshrined in the Federal Constitution which ensures each Malaysian has a place in this land. It is not a singular ethnic or religious right but our collective one

We recognise the balance that the Federal Constitution ensures and this is further supported by the Rukun Negara including the promises made to the people of Sabah and Sarawak in 1963 when Malaysia was formed.
We recognise that we face many challenges and we must strengthen the institutions and mechanisms to address grievances and conflict areas.  Proham has called the Federal Government to amend the Mediation Act 2012 to incorporate a provision on Community Mediation so as to ensure conflicting groups are forced to sit down for community mediation as a way of conflict resolution. Failure to do so will see contestation on the rise and this is not healthy for peace and harmony.

What is urgently needed in Malaysia is political leadership and vision to foster greater unity and harmony. We also recognise that there a forces trying to divide us in exclusive terms pertaining to protection of just one race or religion over the other.
These are politically motivated and against the principles of the Federal Constitution as well as against the Prime minister’s assurance of One Malaysia (which is moving away from tolerance towards understanding, appreciation and acceptance of all ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic communities) and the inclusive development agenda of the Federal Government which is socio-economic for all communities without neglecting the Malays and other indigenous communities.

We are all Malaysians and we must ensure that all ethnic and religious groups have their place as per the Federal Constitution and we must strive to foster unity rather than division, healing rather than hurting, building rather than destroying. This is our joint vision and task.
Proham is confident that this movement Negara Ku is a step forward in the right direction as a people’s movement by civil society under the leadership of Datuk A Samad Said, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and Tan Sri Simon Sipaun. We wish all success and Proham will support this new initiative  for a better Malaysia for all Malaysians

Issued on behalf of Proham by
Datuk Kuthubul Zama (Proham Chairman)
& Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Proham Secretary General)
July 11, 2014

Asean countries should hold interfaith talks to resolve issues, says human rights group

GMM chief executive Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said in a statement other recommendations by the Indonesian Human Rights Working Group included a suggestion for Asean to establish a high-level taskforce on religious freedom.GMM chief executive Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said in a statement other recommendations by the Indonesian Human Rights Working Group included a suggestion for Asean to establish a high-level taskforce on religious freedom.

A consultation group on religious freedom has recommended that Asean countries initiate interfaith dialogues to enhance understanding and appreciation of the diverse traditions of its people and to resolve critical issues.

The group also said Asean should enlist the help of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and invite him to visit these countries, especially Myanmar and Malaysia.

These were among the key recommendations made during a two-day meeting on religious freedom in the Asean region held earlier this month.

The meeting, hosted by the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) and the Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham), reviewed the guidelines prepared by the Indonesian Human Rights Working Group entitled “How to promote and protect the freedom of religion or belief in the Asean region?”

 In a joint press statement, GMM chief executive Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Proham secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria said the other recommendations included a suggestion for Asean to establish a high-level taskforce on religious freedom which will review and address major grievances and violations.

"It was felt that the principles of mutual respect, moderation and greater appreciation of human rights are a potential way forward," they said. The group also recommended that Asean establish a human rights court.

Among the observations made during the meeting was that Asean countries have been witnessing many difficult periods of conflicts between communities over religious freedom. The group also noted that there have been reports of suffering and violations experienced by the Rohingya community in Myanmar, and of issues confronting Muslim women and unresolved concerns of religious minorities in Malaysia.

The group noted that Asean had formulated a human rights declaration which included the protection of religious freedom, and the elimination of intolerance, discrimination and incitement of hatred based on religion and belief. "This provides a consensus decision on the promotion and protection of religious freedom or belief in the Asean region," Saifuddin and Denison said in a statement.

 The UN Special Rapporteur for freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt had recently voiced his concern over the ban on the use of the word Allah in Malaysia. He sent a letter to Putrajaya last year expressing his concerns but has yet to receive a response. "I am still waiting for a response, and hope this can't be the final word of the government," Bielefeldt told to The Malaysian Insider recently.

Civil society groups have criticised Putrajaya over the lack of response, saying the government was being disrespectful to the UN Special Rapporteur.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has also weighed in on the issue, saying that as a UN member state, it was important for the Malaysian government to respond to the concerns raised by the Special Rapporteur. "As much as we understand the sensitivity of the issue, we are also concerned that the issue on the use of the word Allah among non-Muslims has led to severe criticisms by the international community which may reflect negatively on Malaysia's human rights record," Suhakam said in a statement.

Suhakam also said that there was an urgent need for the government to facilitate inter-faith dialogues among relevant stakeholders particularly community leaders, religious scholars, the relevant state and federal authorities and the public on the use of the word. – July 10, 2014.

- See more at:

Pak Samad, Ambiga form new NGO to fight racism

By Malaysiakini July 10, 2014

National laureate A Samad Said and former Malaysian Bar president Ambiga Sreenevasan have formed a new NGO to battle racism and extremism in the nation.

The outfit is called, "A people's movement to reclaim our nation (Negaraku)".

Speaking at the launch today, Ambiga (left) said following the general election, there has been an increase in racial and religious rhetoric in the country, as if certain quarters have a "hidden agenda" to create chaos.

These, she said, included "statements from certain leaders" about the May 13 racial riots of 1969.

Both Samad and Ambiga were former chairpersons of electoral watchdog Bersih. Joining them in Negaraku is former judge and human rights commissioner Simon Sipaun.

The coalition is made up of 60 other NGOs and is chaired by former Bersih steering committee member and Ikram vice president Zaid Kamaruddin.

Nation-building neglected

Zaid (middle, in photo below) said that the coalition is non-partisan and is aimed at educating the rakyat on the constitution and their rights to resist extremist elements in the country.

“We (the steering committee) will meet to develop an action plan. We have many ideas, and we propose to have a roadshow including entering schools to make sure we touch all sectors of the community,” he said.

Meanwhile, Samad (extreme left), who is fondly known as Pak Samad, lamented that political parties focus more on the short-term goal of expanding influence rather than nation-building.

“Racial and religious sentiments are used, undermining the spirit of tolerance and encouraging extremism.

“The government, either by default or by intention has failed to curb this harmful development,” he said.

Most of the NGOs in the coalition are also part of Bersih, including Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia, Pusat Komas and the Malaysian Indian Action Team (Miat).

Also presented at the launch was Negaraku’s pledge, which will also be distributed across the nation to raise awarenes.

The pledge is in six languages - English, Bahasa Malaysia Chinese, Tamil, Iban and Kadazan.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014


By Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia
Proham endorsed this statement

Solidarity the Media Conference to launch “Negara-Ku”
on 10th July 2014 (Thursday), 11.00 am @ KLSCAH;
On a daily basis, we are confronted with serious challenges that have begun to undermine the very foundations of our Nation. The peace and harmony of our multi-ethnic, multi-faith and multicultural society are under threat.

Ethnocentric and race-based politics and communally-minded politicians continue to derail the process of inclusive nation building and the formation of a Bangsa Malaysia national identity. Importantly, religion is now increasingly used as a main marker of identity, and as a boundary maintenance mechanism to polarise the people. 
There are political parties and their affiliates that are not focused on nation building, rather on building their respective power bases. These parties on both sides of the divide pursue their agenda that are transactional and short-term, not transformational and long-term.
The mobilisation and manipulation of race, ethnicity and religion have resulted in increasing intolerance, bigotry and extremism. There is also an emerging sub-culture of political violence. These are symptomatic of dangerous under-currents in our society. 
The State, by default or design, has failed to address these pernicious developments.  The State has also failed to play the role of an honest broker in managing conflicts in our society.
We believe the majority of the People want to end this brand of divisive ethno-religious politics.

We want to take ownership, fully cognisant, that Malaysia is a nation where her people are inextricably bound by a shared history, commonweal and destiny.

We have to act before our society descends into the abyss of instability.
The “NEGARA-KU” Coalition aspires to mobilize and empower the People: -
To resist all forms of intolerance, bigotry, hatred, extremism, and violence;
To oppose all forms of discrimination, oppression, persecution and injustice;
To strive for a socially inclusive society;
To exhort the State and its Institutions to respect, adhere and uphold the Rule of Law; and
To demand adherence to the principles of stewardship, integrity, accountability and transparency in all aspects of governance.
We will strive to do this by returning to the basics:-
  • ·         The Federal Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land;
  • ·         The Malaysia Agreement; and
  • ·          The Rukunegara as the guide for national objectives and values.
 By this process of engagement and empowerment we endeavour to “HEAL THE NATION” and “RESTORE HOPE” in our future.
More info from Coordinating Secretariat, Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM),
Email:                Tel: 03 2272 3594.

The Openness of the Election Commission, Malaysia

On 01 June Proham released a statement concerning constituency delineation and the number of seats in parliament.
Our statement was our response to a roundtable discussion (RTD) on 15 May at which DART, the Delineation Action and Research Team (which comes under BERSIH 2.0), presented the work they are doing around the nation to educate and mobilize voters to contribute to the delineation of constituencies.
The key subjects we touched on at that RTD were malapportionment, gerrymandering and the number of seats in Parliament. We reported that DART has formed teams of volunteers around the nation and trained them. We reported that DART has developed plans to publicly display, in the coming months, their proposals for the boundaries of constituencies. This is DART’s approach to actively engage the public in reviewing the boundaries of constituencies.
We expressed concern that while DART and others have actively engaged the public, the Election Commission (EC) has had little visibility. We encouraged the EC to actively engage the public and to publish its own plans. We also offered to work with all parties and especially to cooperate closely with DART and the EC.

Meeting with the EC on 7 July 2014
We followed up by approaching the EC for a meeting. We were delighted when the EC offered us an opportunity to meet. We met yesterday (07 July 2014) in the EC’s offices in Putra Jaya.
Our delegation included Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam (leader), Datuk A Vaithilingam and Mr M Ramanathan from Proham; and Dr Wong Chin Huat and Mr Thomas Fann from DART.
We were very satisfied by the useful and cordial meeting.

Not only did Tan Sri Abdul Aziz, the Chairman of the EC, and two commissioners (Datuk Christopher Wan Soo Kee  and Tuan Haji Abdul Aziz bin Khalidin) attend the meeting; the EC’s delegation included several senior officers who are actively involved in the delineation process. We were received warmly, treated respectfully and listened to eagerly.

We discussed some results of the 2003 delineation as expressed in the current constituency boundaries; we noted evidences of malappropriation and gerrymandering. It was heartening to receive firm assurances from Chairman Tan Sri Aziz and his team that one of the main goals of the current delineation process is to eliminate such issues.

We discussed who should be responsible for determining the numbers of elected representatives; the EC emphasized that their role is to recommend, and that Parliament is the ultimate decision maker.
DART’s plans
We discussed some aspects of how DART is going about the task, and obtained the EC’s comments and advice about these aspects. We discussed concerns about the electoral roll and heard about the EC’s strenuous efforts to clean the electoral roll.

Key take-aways
We came away with the sense that:
1. The EC is very approachable, and is sincere in soliciting data and feedback which could help it identify and overcome weaknesses. We intend to follow up by submitting more feedback and data to the EC in the spirit of cooperation.
2. We can continue to dialogue with the EC on an ongoing basis.
3. The EC is endeavouring to improve the delineation and electoral process.
4. The EC appreciates those who seek to work with it.

We recognize the EC is working within constraints: the public’s desire for collaboration, the importance of showing no favouritism, and the urgings of some politicians.
We are hopeful that yesterday’s meeting is our first step in active engagement with the EC.
Issued on behalf of Proham by
Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam (Proham member) &
Datuk Kuthubul Zaman (Proham Chairman)
08 July 2014

Monday, 7 July 2014

Defusing hostilities through reasonable talks

By Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria

The recent warning issued by DPM of a bloody incident if racial tensions left is unchecked, deeply troubled me as the statement was coming from someone very senior in the Federal Government. Some politicians have come in defence of the DPM while others are further accusing him.
Is the situation so critical? Are people feeling a sense of tension and fear to leave their homes or go to the Ramadan baazar? This is not really so and therefore we need to reflect where the tensions lie today in Malaysian society and what solutions are at hand

Understanding the current dynamics
First, there is clearly a political divide. Politicians from both sides of the political divide are attacking each other on various issues. This is especially so after GE 13 where there is a greater call to public accountability. This is part of the changed political environment where politicians of which ever political party especially those holding office are called to account. We must encourage politicians to speak up and stand up for their policies and actions.

Second, there is a very vibrant civil society action. One can brand them as right wing or Federal Government linked and others as critical of Federal Government. Many groups and individuals are speaking up and therefore they are finding the space in the traditional or social media to share their views in public. This too is healthy within a democratic tradition and since GE 13 many more groups are speaking up.
Three, there are some groups who use words or ideas which are very exclusive and offensive to others. They could be using intimidation and even threats of violence in expressing their views or warning others to not voice out. Non peaceful ways are not acceptable in democracy or even threats of violence or intimidation. Objective, rational and alternative views can be expressed within a democratic society.

Four, there are times when Federal agencies especially enforcement have not acted neutrally by warning groups or taking appropriate action especially of threat to violence or even doing an act which is clearly outside the realm of reason and socially unacceptable.
Fifth, there seems to be a heighten discussion on race and religion. Both Federal and State public officials are not providing the leadership to neutralise the public discussion but often a majority of politicians are taking advantage of politicising the situation further. There are some unresolved issues due to Article 121 1A over jurisdiction of the civil and sharia courts. There are practical issues to resolve when one party is Muslim and another not.   

Identity & Violence
This morning I was reading Amartya Sen’s “Identity and Violence, the Illusion of Destiny” (2006). In this he writes of the racial and religious riots which he witnessed in Calcutta in the 1940s between Hindus and Muslims during the partition of India and Pakistan. He also writes of the resentment in East Pakistan of the alienation of Bengalis and the violent suppression of the Bengali rebellion and the eventual formation of Bangladesh.

Amarty Sen identifies the core issue which is the way people think of human beings via the “illusion of singular identity” (race or religion) and “the illusion of unique identity”. The danger here is turning “multi-dimensional human being into one dimensional creatures”.
In a similar way we need to ensure that as Malaysians we all have multiple identities which are beyond race and religion including age, class, gender, language, professions and locations. We must strengthen our commonalities as Malaysians and not be in an illusion.

Some ways to find resolution
We therefore must learn the lesson from history and contemporary global situation. We must not allow certain individuals and groups to highjack democracy. We must provide the space for democratic exchange but not incitement to violence or even threats. A number of practical possibilities could be instituted to defuse the situation and provide political leadership to steer the nation forward.

First, there must be greater By-partisan cooperation among the political parties. We must ensure both sides of the political divide are held accountable for their actions. Engaging the opposition and cooperating together between the political divide is of utmost importance rather than trying to point fingers. A parliamentary select committee on public grievances will be able to address the contestations and seek joint remedy.
Second, there is a need for objective and rational analysis of the situation. Some sections are making unfounded claims and accusations pertaining to the core constitutional aspects such as religion, monarchy, special position & national language.  These are not under attack as claimed by some. These aspects of the Federal Constitutions cannot be removed just like that. We must rise above contemporary politics to ensure the Constitution is respected.

Third, the current Mediation Act 2012 could be amended to make it mandatory for differing groups to sit down with a mediator to enable them to resolve the conflicts. We need constructive mechanisms to resolve contestation and potential conflicts. Grievance mechanisms must be effective. Some of the issues now before the court could be better managed in a mediation context especially matters pertaining to ethnicity, culture and religion.
Fourth, the authorities must stop the distortions and provocations. Federal agencies and officials must be just and fair but must act in the best interest of the nation, not just for a particular political party, race or even religion. One must be transparent and accountable especially public officials. They duty and loyalty is to the nation and King.

Fifth, Federal agencies must ensure greater engagement with all parties especially the civil society. Some might categorise some organisations as Right wing or Left and some as conservative or liberal. But what is important is that most of the contestation is coming from civil society. There is therefore the need for more face to face discussion with of all the various groups.
There is now the feeling that some federal agencies are only in dialogue and discussion with certain groups and not in an open and transparent way as reflected in the Universal Periodical Review matter pertaining to human rights.  Some were even banned locally but have high access with the United National process internationally. It is therefore, imperative for all Federal agencies and groups to dialog and chart a way forward for nation building. We must trust that we are rational human being and that we will be able to come to a consensus position in the best interest of the nation.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 We are all Malaysians and this is our home. We must work together and ensure that this land will progress for all the people of Malaysia. We must encourage a more inclusive society and all Federal agencies must establish mechanisms and measures which can enhance this and become a show case of fostering greater unity, cohesion and solidarity among all the people of Malaysia.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

German-Muslim scholar calls for greater individual rights in freedom of religion


German-Muslim scholar calls for greater individual rights in freedom of religion
How a person practices his or her religion is an individual right, said German Muslim scholar Prof Dr
Harry Harun Behr. - Pic by Cynthia Ng
Cynthia Ng, Astro Awani | Updated: July 04, 2014
(First published on: July 04, 2014 09:00 MYT)
KUALA LUMPUR: Religion is a personal thing, so said Prof Dr Harry Harun Behr, a representative of the German Islamic Conference.

Harun reiterated that a person’s can practice his or her individual right and can be differentiated from the rights of his or her religious institutions.

As far back as 30 years ago, Harun noted, discrimination against how a person’s practices religion was apparent.

He related a scenario which took place in a neighbouring country where a student was unceremoniously expelled from school because she wore the 'hijab' to school.

Harun, who was a student at a university, protested to this uncouth action taken upon the pupil on the basis of encroaching her religion freedom.

Today, the scenario has changed. A majority of students from the same country are hijab wearers and if a girl is prosecuted for not wearing the hijab, said Harun, it can be questioned as it is viewed as encroaching into her individual freedom to religion.

In this contemporary setting, he noted, there has been a rise of attentiveness towards religion in the modern society particularly, in the secular states.

In terms of an individual's spiritual identity, such developments may bring about positive effects on the personal identity.

However, said the scholar, the positive effects have inevitably contributed to the downside of the personal religion freedom.

Why, one may ask.       
“This may encourage religious communities to develop their particular political agenda as social pressure groups,” he explained.


Rights group wants guideline on religion freedom at ASEAN level




Rights group wants guideline on religion freedom at ASEAN level

Indonesias NGO Coalition for International Human Rights Advocacy (HRWG) senior adviser on
ASEAN and Human Rights, Yuyun Wahyuningrum calls for a legal framework to protect religion
freedom in ASEAN.
By Cynthia Ng, Astro Awani | Updated: July 05, 2014
(First published on: July 05, 2014 08:00 MYT)       
A legal framework to protect religious freedom is needed at the regional level, said Indonesia’s NGO Coalition for International Human Rights Advocacy (HRWG).

“South East Asia is home to diversity in terms of language, religion and ethnicity. We may be similar in our skin colour and features but are dealing with different sets of problems,” said HRWG senior adviser on ASEAN and Human Rights Yuyun Wahyuningrum at a dialogue with local civil society leaders, here.

Jointly-organised by the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMMF) and the Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham), the dialogue is aimed at gathering inputs on matters pertaining to religion, freedom in Malaysia.

“ASEAN as a regional entity has been silent on the diversity and the potential conflict that may arise, if we didn’t do anything, especially in religion,” said  Yuyun, adding that there is no existing framework to tackle religious issues that ASEAN countries have faced in recent years.

For the record, HRWG has established a set of guidelines on the Promotion & Protection of Religious Freedom in ASEAN, which will be circulated among Asean countries for review and input which will be presented in stages in other ASEAN countries.

“After this, we will gather input from other countries and submit the findings to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. The process (to set it as government guideline) will take a bit long as it will need the consensus from all ten countries,” said Yuyun.

She hopes that Malaysia’s chairmanship of ASEAN next year will help expedite the process of pushing the guideline into implementation by all member states.

“With the Malaysia’s leadership, perhaps we can move it a bit faster, especially since the Malaysian government has put moderation as one of its important agenda during its chairmanship of ASEAN.”

The call for greater protection of religion freedom, according to Yuyun, is due to rising religious and ethnic conflicts, especially between majority and minority communities.

She added in Indonesia, minority groups have been subjected to increasing intolerance and perpetrators have been allowed to get away with impunity.

“There are attacks against Ahmadiyah, Shiite and Christian communities. There are cases of churches being sealed. The government has done little against these kinds of violations.”

“We also discussed on a state preference towards a religion. If you practice religion A and do something wrong, you get away more easily compared to the person who practices religion B, just because the state has a preference for the Religion A. That is unfair. It’s a reflection of the absence of rule of law. That is dangerous.”

Although cases of violation against religious freedom have been brought forward to the ASEAN level, it does not have a mandate yet to deal with such issues effectively.

“We believe that ASEAN community 2015 is not going to happen if the basic freedom on individuals, like the freedom of religion, will not be guaranteed.”