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Friday, 26 February 2016

Proham: Give inter-religious committee more bite

PETALING JAYA: The newly formed inter-religious committee must be given powers to inquire and mediate disputes involving individuals and communities, says Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria.
“While this is a timely set-up, Proham recommends that this new committee be given the resources to carry out its mandate,” he said.
He said the 32-member committee to promote understanding and religious harmony, which was started by the Government, should be given powers to mediate between disputing individuals and communities.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced the setting up of the committee, which would serve as a mechanism to find solutions that were fair and just towards strengthening Malaysia’s multi-faith and multi-racial society.
Former National Unity and Integration Department director-general Datuk Azman Amin Hassan was appointed as chairman while Council of Churches of Malaysia’s general-secretary Rev Dr Hermen Shastri is the deputy.
The others include Proham’s founding chairman Tan Sri Datuk Seri Simon Sipaun, Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism president Datuk Seri Jit Heng, Archbishop of South-East Asia’s Anglican Church Archbishop Datuk Bolly Lapok, Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk Mohan Shanmugam, Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia president Mohammad Raimi Abd Rahim and Christian Federation of Malaysia executive secretary Tan Kong Beng.
In a statement yesterday, Dr Denison called for strong political and administrative support for the committee, adding that there should be little interference to its works.
The committee’s findings should be respected and implemented accordingly, he said.
“We recognise that the cross-section of representatives from religious, academic and community organisations is a strength.”

Thursday, 25 February 2016

PROHAM Comments on Religious Freedom and Human Rights

Andrew delivering the talk on Religious Freedom

PROHAM hosted a talk on this theme yesterday Feb 25, 2016 at BAC-PJ Campus and was attended by about 35 people a majority of whom were law students from BAC. The talk was delivered by Mr Andrew Khoo, a human rights lawyer and advocate for a human rights approach to religious freedom. This talk was comprehensive, informative and contemporary drawing relevance to current issues pertaining to religious freedom issues in Malaysia society.

PROHAM recognises that religious freedom is a very important and a central tenet of human rights. This is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in Article 18 that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” which is reiterated in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights in article 18. This right to religious freedom, thought and conscience is universal, inalienable, interdependent and indivisible.

PROHAM also recognises that the Federal Constitute provides adequate safe guards for the protection and promotion of Religious Freedom as per article 3; article 11 (1), (3) and article 12 including 12 (4).

We do note that the 1988 amendment to article 121 with the new clause in article 121(1A) on the jurisdiction of the civil and Syariah courts has posed major problems on cases affecting people of Islam and others from other faiths. The Federal Constitution in the Ninth Schedule, List 11-State List, indicates that the Syariah courts “have jurisdiction only on persons professing the religion of Islam”. Therefore matters pertaining to a Muslim and other faiths should be heard by the civil courts.

The founding fathers of the nation both in 1957 and in 1963 affirmed this protection of Religious Freedom and therefore PROHAM reiterates this founding principal based on the spirit and content of the Federal Constitution.

PROHAM notes with sadness that religious issues in Malaysian society have been on many occasions politicized impacting negatively inter religious understanding and relations. We also note that at times the administration and enforcement is perceived to be partial in the handing of issues which warrant a fair and just handing.

PROHAM welcomes the Federal Governments initiative in setting up of the “Committee to Promote Understanding and Harmony among the Religious Adherents” with the appointment of 32 members. We recognise that the cross section of representatives from religious, academic and community organisations is a strength.

While this is a timely set up, its objectives and task of utmost importance, PROHAM recommends that this new Committee be given the resources to carry out this mandate.
In addition the Committee will require some legislative provisions such as legal basis to undertake mediation between disputing individuals and communities as well as inquiry powers to effectively carry out their task in a just and fair way.

PROHAM calls on the Federal Government to ensure that there is strong political and administrative support of various agencies with little interference to the Committee’s work. The committee’s findings must be respected and appropriate action taken especially by all the relevant agencies.

PROHAM recognises that the key priority is finding solutions and ensuring effective execution so as to enhance inter religious harmony in Malaysian society.

Issue on behalf of PROHAM by:-

Datuk Kuthubul Zaman (Chairman) and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Secretary General)

Feb 26, 2016

Wednesday, 24 February 2016


By Melati A. Jalil

Putrajaya today unveiled new members of the Committee to Promote Understanding and Harmony among Religious Adherents (JKMPKA) for the 2016-2017 session.
Its 32 members were announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in his office in Putrajaya and with 29 present to receive their letters of appointment today.

The committee’s new chairman is Datuk Azman Amin Hassan, the former director-general of the Malaysian National Unity and Integration Department (JPNIN), and the deputy chairman is Rev Dr Hermen Shastri, general-secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM).

Among the main committee members are Tan Sri Datuk Seri Simon Sipaun, the founding chairman of the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) and a former Malaysian Human Rights commissioner; 

Datuk Seri Jit Heng, president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST); Archbishop Datuk Bolly Lapok, Archbishop of Southeast Asia’s Anglican Church; Prof Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong, head of the History, Heritage and Social Cluster of National Professor Council; and Datuk John Sikayun, former Sabah Law Association head.

Others are Datuk Mohan Shanmugam, president of Malaysia Hindu Sangam; academics Associate Professor Madeline Berma and Associate Professor Mohamed Md Yusoff; Negara-Ku steering committee chairman Zaid Kamaruddin; Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) president Mohammad Raimi Abd Rahim; former MCCBCHST president Sardar Jagir Singh; MCCBCHST office-bearer Daozhang Tan Hoe Chieow; and Tan Kong Beng, executive secretary of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM).

Najib, at the ceremony to hand out the appointment letters, said efforts to strengthen Malaysia's multi-faith and multi-racial society should be “formalised and institutionalised”.

"It has to be a concerted effort, a well-planned coordinated effort for us to strengthen national unity, or national integration. We may have national harmony but we must work towards an ideal (situation) that is a true sense of national unity.
“This (committee) is the mechanism to find solutions, there are solutions and we must find solutions that are fair and just,” he said.

He said the process of nation building should continue even though Malaysia had managed to overcome challenges after independence in 1957.

“This process should not have an end because to build a harmonious nation would take a very long time.”

He said Malaysians also should find core values that cut across all faiths and communities.

“Some of the core values that we should  try to identify is that we should conduct ourselves as Malaysians in a moderate way – moderation, mutual respect and working together, the spirit of give and take, wanting to find solution, not to create problems.
“These are some of the core values as Malaysians and we should adhere to the core values.”

Najib said Malaysians should also refer to the Federal Constitution as a guide to binding people together with “respect, belonging and togetherness”.

He urged the committee's new members to fulfil their roles in working for a peaceful and harmonious Malaysia.

“There will be problems, there will be challenges because we are living  in a complex society but with a positive attitude, I'm confident that as Malaysians we will continue to live in peace and harmony.

“I’m counting on you to play your part to achieve and cherish these goals.” – February 24, 2016.

Published: 24 February 2016

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


Following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the global development agenda at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, more than 20 civil society organisations (CSOs) in Malaysia met on three occasions since October 2015 to reflect on the relevance of SDGs to the country.

We recognise that under the principle of leaving no one behind, the SDGs integrate human rights and development in a balanced, inclusive and ecologically sustainable way.

We note that the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020) and the SDGs share some common policy and program focus. With that, the 17 goals, 169 targets and the many indicators identified will guide a clear direction for both policy and delivery in Malaysia’s development program.

We recognise the gaps and shortcomings in the Government’s development planning, priorities and implementation. However, many of these gaps could be addressed through the SDGs over the next 15 years between 2016 -2030.
We call upon the Government of Malaysia to ensure the effective implementation of goals, targets and indicators of the SDGs as pledged during the UN Sustainable Development Goals Summit, September 2015 in New York, USA.

We stand ready and willing to contribute towards the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs. Indeed, we wish for comprehensive participation throughout the process in the spirit demonstrated in the outcome document that made a commitment for “all stakeholders acting in collaborative partnership to implement the plan”. We believe the SDGs is a critical and timely opportunity to initiate a goals based partnership that can drive a concerted effort towards achieving Malaysia’s own development goals as a shared responsibility.

The concerns and recommendations of the CSOs are as follows:-

First, we recommend that the Government engage CSOs at the planning, delivery, implementation, monitoring and evaluation stages of the SDGs. Due to the cross-cutting nature of the sustainable development agenda, formal channels and mechanisms should be established at the Federal, State and local levels.

Second, we call for a strong institutional framework to support the implementation of SDGs in Malaysia over the next 15 years. The SDGs must go beyond a reporting framework with clear coordinating and implementation responsibilities. We also highlight the need for an organizational and institutional mapping exercise so as to ensure effective collaborations and coordination across the sectors, disciplines and locations.

Third, we recommend the establishment of a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation mechanism to ensure inclusive development across the various dimensions so as to ensure that no one is left behind. This should include transparent and wide dissemination of information and data.

Fourth, we suggest a collaborative communications campaign to address the need to create wider awareness and understanding on the SDGs not only with the stakeholders, but also with the general public. The concept of sustainable development needs to be mainstreamed across government as well as the general public.

Signed and endorsed by:-

Centre for Environment, Technology and Development (CETDEM) Malaysia: Antony Tan

Coalition of Malaysian Environmental NGOs (MENGO): Yasmin Rasyid

COMMACT Malaysia- The Common Wealth Network for People-Centred Development: Prof Datuk Mohd Yusof Kasim

Environmental Protection Society Malaysia (EPSM): Nithi Nesadurai &
 Datin Sushiela McCoy

Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF): Dr. Ahmad Farouk Musa

KOMAS: Jerald Jospeh

Malaysian Chapter, ASEC – Asian Solidarity Economy Council; Dr Jun-E Tan

National Council of Women's Organisation (NCWO): Prof Emerita Tan Sri Dr Sharifah Hapsah & Omna Sreeni Ong

PROHAM- Society for the Promotions of Human Rights: Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, Ms Ivy Josiah & Dr Lin Mui Kian

Researcher : Dr Khoo Ying Hooi

Scope Group: Dr Shariha Khalid & Jonson Chong

Tokoh Belia Negara 2014: Jufitri Joha

Yayasan Budi Penyayang Malaysia: Dato' Leela Mohd Ali & Stephen Doss

Yayasan Kajian & Pembangunan Masyarakat (YKPM): Kon Onn Sein

Feb 23, 2016

Appendix 1 – Recommendations for SDGs implementation

1.   CSO Engagement:

       Engagement of relevant CSOs throughout the policy cycle from agenda setting through to implementation;

       Formation of working groups with representatives from government, private sector, civil society, academicians based and professional bodies based on all clusters, goals and targets;

       Engagement with CSOs at the relevant levels including federal, state and local as the SDGs will require collaboration and competencies at all levels; and
       Engagement of youth organisations as SDGs is a long term agenda.

       Engagement of women’s organisations and other often overlooked groups to ensure maximum inclusivity

2.   Strong Institutional Framework for SDGs:

       Undertake a mapping of organisations and competencies available relevant to the SDGs Goals and Targets at all levels;

       Propose that an institutional framework for sustainable development be established to oversee implementation and nationalise the SDGs beyond global reporting;

       Explore the possibility of the establishment of a National SDG Council with the EPU Minister chairing and including representatives from government, private sector, professional bodies and civil society as members. In addition, for the proposed Council to be effective, the Government must establish a strong and well-resourced secretariat which must be inter-agency, inter-disciplinary (including social, economic and environmental experts) and include staff from academia, think tanks and civil society;

       Consider alternative institutional approaches such as the suggestion that EPU align its overall function to sustainable development, as economic planning is only one aspect of the planning focus. Another suggestion is to appoint a Sustainable Development Commissioner; and

       Explore financing mechanisms (including social financing) such as a special SDG Fund to finance the implementation of the SDG goals and targets.

3.   Comprehensive monitoring and evaluation mechanism:

       Ensure inclusive development across the various dimensions such as gender, ethnicity and sub ethnicity, location, class (T20, M40 & B40) is taking place. This is in line with the requirement for disaggregated data which requires data collection and publishing to monitor the progress across many dimensions;

       To ensure that ‘no one is left behind’, the SDGs must be inclusive and account for marginalised communities including indigenous peoples with the need to undertake assessments ‘on the ground’;

       The monitoring and evaluation must include all goals and targets including social, economic and environmental dimensions of the SDGs; and

       Improve access to information through providing public access to data and information on SDGs monitoring and evaluation.

4.   Raising awareness and understanding:

       A commitment to popularise SDGs by creating greater awareness among all the stakeholders with government, private sector, civil society and grassroots communities; and

       Improve coherence and understanding across the fivefold SDG framework of people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership including the commitment towards sustainable development namely economic, social and environmental including human rights in a balanced way. 

Monday, 15 February 2016




Date:           Feb 25, 2016 (Thursday)

Time:           4pm to 6pm

Venue:        Brickfields Asia College (BAC), PJ Campus
VSQ @ PJ City Centre, B-2, Jalan Utara Section 14
Petaling Jaya, Selangor Tel: +603-79541769

Are human rights a threat to freedom of religion?  Should religious doctrine take precedence over fundamental liberties?  These are but two of many questions that arise as we look at the interplay between the principle of religious doctrine and the practicality of plurality of belief.

In addressing this interplay, Andrew Khoo will discuss how and why this has come to be such a contentious issue, and suggest ways to navigate the ebb and flow of contemporary discourse.

Guest Speaker

ANDREW KHOO has been in legal practice in Malaysia for more than 20 years.  An elected member of the Bar Council since March 2009, he currently serves as Co-Chair of the Human Rights Committee. 

He acted as watching brief counsel for the Malaysian Bar and the Malaysian Human Rights Commission in the S. Deepa case, for the Council of Churches Malaysia in the Herald/”Allah” case and Bible Society of Malaysia in the Jill Ireland case.

Participation by registration: