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Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Irene Fernandez honoured at Suhakam Awards


By Anjulie Ngan (Malaysiakini, Sept. 9, 2014)
The late Irene Fernandez has received posthumous honours at the National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) awards today.

The human rights activist was among eight winners awarded at the ceremony to commemorate Suhakam’s 14th year of establishment.

Fernandez (right), was recognised in the individual category for her outstanding and tireless efforts in defending the rights of the marginalised groups including domestic and migrant workers, women and refugees.

Accepting the award on her behalf, her widower Joseph Paul said that Fernandez had a "love-hate relationship with Suhakam" and "was never deterred in speaking out for the marginalised groups".

In 1995, Fernandez published a report on the living conditions of migrant workers and was arrested a year later for "maliciously publishing false news".

Thirteen years later, on 28 Oct 2008, her conviction was overturned and she was acquitted.

"A government official called her an immoral person for criticising governmental policies. Being a human rights activist is a continuous struggle," Paul said.

Fernandez, who was PKR founding vice president and director and co-founder of the NGO Tenaganita, died on March 31, 2014 of heart failure.

Balanced reporting

Suhakam also recognised Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS), Berita Harian's crime desk reporter Wan Noor Hayati Wan Alias, The Star's senior journalist Elantiraian Perumal, BFM89.9 radio station, the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM), Deaf in Business (DiB) Coffees of Hawaii and Hafrulidzwan Mohd Isa, a teacher from SMK TTDI.

SWWS received an award in the organisation category for its significant work in promotion for women's equality and elimination of violence against women and children.

"We are the only NGO in Sarawak currently trying to uphold women and children's rights. It's an extremely difficult task to do since the women we are trying to reach live in remote and rural places," said SWWS president Margaret Bedus to Malaysiakini.

She added that she hopes that with more recognition, she will be able to reach more victims of sexual exploitation from irresponsible parties and help them.

Wan Noor Hayati and Elantiraian received awards for the print media category for excellence in investigative reporting, as well as for their bravery in uncovering the truths on human rights issues that have affected the rights of grassroots communities.

In the broadcast category, BFM89.9 radio station was awarded for demonstrating "fair and balanced" reporting on community, social justice and human rights.

Restoring dignity

Currently the first gourmet coffee chain in Malaysia operated fully by nine deaf personnel, DiB Coffees of Hawaii received the business entity award.

"We want to restore hope and dignity to all disabled people by improving their livelihood," said Allen Teh, CEO of the coffee chain.

The government agency award went to the ATM’s Markas Angkatan Bersama for providing informal education for the underprivileged children in Pulau Berhala, Sandakan since 2009.

"Based on our latest consensus, out of 978 children on the island, only 170 or less than 10 percent are attending schools in Sandakan.

"Many are stateless and we hope through our project Jiwa Murni, we will be able to educate them in reading writing and counting, so they can have a better life," said Leftenan Jeneral Affendi Buang, who received the award on ATM’s behalf.

SMK TTDI teacher Hafarulidzwan won the Special Award for his continuous effort in promoting human rights and the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) among school communities.

Suhakam received 32 nominations from various stakeholders for five categories of which Suhakam chairperson Hasmy Agam said was extremely difficult to choose from.

"The eight who were chosen today displayed extraordinary commitment and had made a positive impact in preserving the rights of the various groups in Malaysia,” he said.

Each winner received RM2,000 in cash, a plaque and a certificate from Suhakam.

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