Speech by Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari
Distinguished Guests, Eminent Speakers, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Today marks the first lecture in the 2015 series of Human Rights Public Lectures organized by PROHAM and Brickfields Asia College.
First off, let me profusely thank all those involved in the organization of the 2015 series especially Mr R. Rajasingam and Datuk Denison Jayasooria, hats off to a job well done.
Allow me also to congratulate and voice my appreciation to Brickfields Asia College for their notable foresight in educating the Malaysian youths on their rights and the importance of Human Rights compliance in the nation. In this day and current political climate, it is near impossible for Human Rights Organizations to gain access to Public Colleges and Universities in Malaysia. It is high time that these Public Colleges and Universities take cue from Brickfields Asia College and open their doors to educate all young Malaysians on issues of Human Rights concerning them.
I would also like to commend all in attendance today, especially the young ones. It has been said and it will be said a million times – you are the future of Malaysia. It warms my heart to know that there are so many of us who are concerned with Human Rights and its role in the building of our nation.
On the 10th of December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was and remains today, a landmark and remarkable instrument. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, it is the ‘International Magna Carta of all men everywhere’. The UN General Assembly proclaimed it as a ‘common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations’.
It catalogued 28 rights; both civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights. It begins with the beautiful recognition that:-
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Henry J Steiner, a Professor at the Harvard Law School sums the accurate reflection of the respect and command which the Universal Declaration invokes:-
‘It proceeded to work its subversive path through many rooted doctrines of international law, forever changing the discourse of international relations on issues vital to human decency and peace. It underscored the need for international human-rights institutions that could exercise novel jurisdiction over states. It animated peoples in many countries to rethink their plight and to demand of their leaders an unprecedented recognition of their human rights. This remarkable Declaration has become the constitution of the universal human-rights movement.’
In recognition of the Declaration’s place of honour in the human-rights movement, 10th December annually is celebrated worldwide as Human Rights Day; a day where we work especially to ensure that all people can gain equality; dignity and freedom. Last year, PROHAM together with Brickfields Asia College commemorated Human Rights Day with a week-long celebration including a Public Forum on Malaysia’s role in the United Nation Security Council.
This year, the UN Human Rights Day theme is Human Rights 365 – the idea that EVERYDAY is Human Rights Day; everyday we should work towards realising the aspiration of the Declaration.
In light of that, PROHAM, together with Brickfields Asia College has initiated this 2015 series of Human Rights Public Lectures. Reflected in these lectures is the very same idea – that these rights are the inalienable entitlement of all people, everywhere and for all times, 365 days a year and that we must work towards a Malaysia where the Declaration is realised.
2014 was not the best of years for Malaysia; trial, tribulations, turmoil, tragedies and tumbling oil prices crippled the country. Looking forward, we at PROHAM strongly believe that Human Rights presents the best framework in which to build a better future for Malaysia. In setting our nation building agenda and future plans for development, we must underscore on the need to foster an inclusive, fair and just society based on the principles enshrined in the Declaration.
The 6 lectures scheduled will present the interactions of human rights across all aspects of our society – from the rights guaranteed by our Federal Consitution to rights against discrimination based on race, religion and gender. It will explore the contemporary challenges faced by Malaysia and Malaysian in the implementation of these rights while still sustaining growth of the nation. It will analyse the resolution of disputes which arises from these rights. It will, in the larger context, underpin the extensive role that human rights can and should play in the Malaysian society.
The speakers that we have lined up are some of the best in the field. Their experience as Human Rights activists and academics will ensure an open, rational and thought-provoking discussion on human rights issues in Malaysia.
Phillip Allot, Professor Emiritus of Public International Law at the University of Cambridge once wrote that ‘the idea of human rights, having been thought, it cannot be unthought’. It is my greatest wish that the 2015 series of Human Rights Public Lectures will mark an era where all of us, especially you, young Malaysians think human rights and think human rights 365 days a year.
Launch and 1st Lecture was held on Jan 23, 2015 at BAC, PJ