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Wednesday, 23 March 2016


Taken at the SDG Workshop held on Feb 29, 2016 at Bangi organised by SDSN

Towards 2030 : Translating Sustainable Development Goals into empowering inclusive policy, practice and delivery.

Organised by KITA-UKM, PROHAM and Centre for Development Studies HELP University,

Date: March 28, 2016 (Monday)

Time: 5pm

Venue : Help University
Lecture Hall 1,  Lower Level, ELM Business School HELP University
15 Jalan Sri Semantan, Bukit Damansara 50508

Speaker: Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria will provide an overview of the issues and challenges based on his two recent publications namely Sustainable Development Goals & Malaysia Society: Civil Society Perspectives (2016) and Towards 2030: Malaysia's Development Agenda (2016). Both published by KITA-UKM

Two major documents guide us on the directions Malaysia is taking namely the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020) and the Sustainable Development Goals (2016-2030). Email denison for a soft copy ( hard copies available at KITA-UKM priced at RM10.00 per copy

In this context we need to review the means of implementation and ends of the paradigm being used.

This will be followed by a Panel discussion namely:-

Prof Datuk Yusof Kassim, Chairman COMMACT Malaysia and Chairman ICOOP College

Dr Lin Mui Kiang, Former UN Consultant & Member of PROHAM (Society for the Promotion of Human Rights-Malaysia)

Ms Jasmine Adaickalam, Community-Codes & former Pemandu Officer on Low Income & Poverty

Participation is by registration. Register with - . 

Monday, 21 March 2016



1.            The Federal Constitution of Malaysia provides guarantees and safeguards of the various fundamental rights and liberties of its citizens and people. These fundamental rights and liberties cane be fund in Articles 5 to 13 of the Federal Constitution. Though these rights are clearly enshrined in our Constitution, of late, there has been a total breakdown in the rule of law and these rights have openly been trampled by those in power.

2.            In a year where a major corruption scandal came to light and the persecution of opposition leaders and activists, 2015 saw a steep plummet in the Malaysian Government’s respect for Human Rights. In an effort to hush up any criticisms, the powers that be have intensified their crackdown on the freedoms of the Malaysian people.

3.            Article 8 (1) of the Federal Constitution provides that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled to its equal protection. However, are the laws applied equally to everyone in Malaysia?? It comes to no surprise that the answer to that question is a resounding “NO”. Recent events have thrown into sharp relief that Malaysia is no different to George Orwell’s Animal Farm where, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. The recent exoneration of the Prime Minister by the Attorney General in respect of the 3 investigation papers submitted by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission is now a subject matter of a judicial review application in the High Court led by the Malaysian Bar Council.

4.            Steven Thiru, the current president of the Malaysian Bar in a statement issued on the 15th of March 2016 had this to say:-
“There should be no usurpation of the judicial powers of the courts, as it is for the courts — and not the Attorney General — to decide on the innocence or guilt of a suspect in respect of any alleged crime.  The independence of the MACC, in discharging its statutory duties under the MACC Act 2009 as an investigative and enforcement agency, must be protected, and any impediment to the performance of these duties must be prevented.  This matter involves serious allegations of financial impropriety, including allegations of loss of public funds, and has dire implications on the administration of justice.  It must therefore be resolved in a manner consistent with the principles of the rule of law.”

5.            In the year 2015/2016, we were also confronted with the passing of some offensive laws that violate the rule of law and fundamental human rights.

                      i.        PREVENTION OF TERRORISM ACT 2015

This act actually resurrects some of the provisions of the now repealed Internal Security Act. It allows detention without trial for up to 2 years with a possibility for further extension. Additionally, this act even precludes Judicial Review.

In fact, many, including myself do not see the necessity of this Act in order to prevent terrorism. The then current laws in place sufficed to combat the threat of terrorism. Part VI and VI(A) of the Penal Code has sufficient provisions to tackle the threat of terrorism. Further, there are ample provisions in the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 to combat the threats of terrorism.

                    ii.        AMENDMENTS TO THE SEDITION ACT 1948

The Prime Minister in 2012 announced that the outdated Sedition Act of 1948 passed by our colonial masters will be repealed and to be replaced by national harmony laws. However, to our dismay, the government not only turned back on its promise to repeal the law, it amended the Sedition Act to further restrict the freedom of thought, speech and expression:-

-          Sentences of fine have been removed and replaced with imprisonment of a minimum of 3 years up to a maximum of 20 years.
-          The amendment introduced a new offence of aggravated sedition.
-          Judicial discretion in sentencing has been removed.

                   iii.        THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL ACT 2015

This act was pushed through Parliament in haste without giving ample opportunity for the Parliamentarians to grasp and understand its consequence. This statute creates a new entity called the National Security Council and this entity is given enormous powers with the right to declare “Emergency”.  The council operates above the Cabinet and there are no checks and balances. This appears to subvert the constitutional role of the Yang Di Pertuan Agong in “Emergency” matters; where the fundamental rights of individuals may be affected and/or worse, suspended in any area declared as a Security under the Act.

We are indeed fortunate that the Conference of Rulers has directed the government to relook at this act. Indeed Proham has urged the government to abandon this act.

6.            In May 2015, Malaysians were shocked when the authorities discovered 139 grave sites and 28 death camps in the State of Perlis near the border of Thailand; suspected to a result of Human Trafficking. Human Trafficking is a tragedy and must be totally eliminated. These grave sites and death camps are symbols of total violation of fundamental human rights. As of today, we do not know whether the authorities have completed their investigations as no culprits have been brought to justice.

7.            The year 2015/2016 also witnessed a large number of persons charged under the Sedition Act 1948. As of April 2015, in a press release by ICJ, 36 people including academicians, lawyers, politicians, students and activists have been charged. Though the AG has withdrawn charges against Prof Azmi Shahrom and Teresa Kok, PROHAM urges the AG to drop all charges against those persons charged under the Sedition Act and the Government to keep to their promise of repealing the act.

8.            After what seemed to be a worrying trend of the Government’s elimination of peaceful dissenting voices, the Human Rights Watch released a 143-page report, titled “Creating a Culture of Fear: The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in Malaysia,” which documents the government’s use and abuse of a range of broad and vaguely worded laws to criminalize peaceful expression, including debates on matters of public interest. The report also spotlights a disturbing trend of abuse of the legal process, including late night arrests and unjustifiable remands, and a pattern of selective prosecution. I strongly recommend a reading of this report.

9.            Additionally, we have all witnessed the rather unfortunate and indeed sad shutting down of the Malaysian Insider. The editor of the Malaysian Insider, Jahabar Saadiq, was quoted in the Guardian on 16/03/2016 as having said:-
“We were becoming too free, as the government side of the news became the object of derision and ridicule. Ministers and the police warned against distributing news or cartoons that mocked the issue, saying it was seditious and unverified news.
Press freedom remains, but the threat of being accused of sedition and possible jail time has imprisoned us within our minds as Malaysians. People are shutting up and we have shut down.”

10.         PROHAM, in refusing to shut up or shut down, urges the Government to stop blocking websites and arresting people who voice out dissents, and instead to engage with the criticism and come to proof that these websites and their dissenters are wrong.

11.         Phil Robertson, the Deputy Director of the Asian Division of the Human Rights Watch was quoted to have said:-
“The government’s intolerance of critical speech and its ongoing campaign of arrests and prosecutions belie any claim that Malaysia is a rights-respecting democracy,” 

12.         Moving forward, the Malaysian Government must improve in its records on Human Rights. The Government must respect the fundamental rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution and not make a mockery of the claim that Malaysia is a rights-respecting democracy. Furthermore citizen’s movements for democracy and good governance must be encouraged and nurtured. In addition instituting institutional and structural reforms for democracy, human rights and sustainable development is our urgent collective agenda.

Thank you.

Reflections shared at the PROHAM AGM (March 18, 2016)

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Civil society hands memorandum on SDGs to EPU Minister

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 A memorandum on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was presented to Dato’ Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, by an alliance of civil society organisations (CSO) at the Symposium Operationalising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development jointly organised by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today.

The memorandum was handed over to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department by the representative of the CSO alliance, Datuk Denison Jayasooria, after the opening ceremony of the symposium that was held at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre.

The memorandum, highlighting concerns and recommendations of the CSO alliance, had a total of 14 endorsements, which include civil society coalitions, organisations and an individual. The alliance said that they stood “ready and willing to contribute towards the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs.” Further, seeking a meaningful partnership with the government, they said that they “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 SDGs agenda draws some parallels with the 11th Malaysia Plan, as both share common policy and programme focuses. However, the CSO alliance noticed some gaps in the 11th Malaysia Plan’s delivery framework and consultation of different sectors. While it was acknowledged that the Malaysian government plan aims to benefit socio-economic well-being and the environment, the CSO alliance also proposed their recommendations on Malaysian development priorities with regards to sustainable development goals.

In particular, the recommendations include engagement of civil society organisations at the planning, delivery, implementation, monitoring and evaluation stages of the SDGs, a strong institutional framework to support the implementation of SDGs in Malaysia over the next 15 years, 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, and 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 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals was adopted on 25 September 2015 at the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly. This was achieved through a collaborative process among governments, civil society and the private sector. Formed on the basis of no one being left behind, the SDGs aim to end poverty, protect the planet and increase prosperity for all.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Misuse of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 to Stifle Freedom of Speech and Expression Must End

By Steven Thiru
President, Malaysian Bar

The Malaysian Bar is aghast at the decision of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (“MCMC”) — pursuant to Sections 233 and 263(2) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (“CMA”) — to deny public access to The Malaysian Insider (“TMI”) online news portal indefinitely. 

MCMC announced the decision in its statement dated 25 February 2016, without giving any specific reason.  However, it appears that MCMC has taken action against TMI because TMI allegedly published matters that have caused confusion.  MCMC has not identified the offending publication(s) by TMI that caused this purported confusion.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Mohd Salleh Tun Said Keruak has reportedly said that TMI has been blocked as one of the articles published by it “... quoted a statement that could cause confusion because it contradicts with official statements by MACC.  They don’t mention who the source is.  It could confuse the public.”[1]  

Causing public confusion is not, and cannot be, an offence under Section 233 of the CMA.  MCMC’s reliance on Section 233 for its action against TMI is therefore without any basis, and   oppressive.  It is quite puzzling that anyone could consider causing public confusion to be an offence at all.  It is also rather demeaning and offensive to assume that Malaysians will be “confused” merely as a result of contradictory statements in the press, or because the source of press statements was not disclosed. 

Moreover, MCMC cannot invoke Section 263(2) of the CMA for the purpose of barring public access to websites on unjustifiable grounds.  As a responsible regulator, MCMC must always act in accordance with the law and must not arrogate to itself powers that have not been conferred on it by Parliament.  The action taken by MCMC against TMI appears to be unsustainable in law. 

The recent and emerging pattern of MCMC’s reliance on the CMA to bar access to websites is alarming.  It is seen as harassment and intimidation of the media, and targeting of contrary or dissenting voices in the public sphere.  In July 2015, the whistleblower website, Sarawak Report, was blocked for allegedly publishing unverified information relating to the Prime Minister.  Other websites such as Medium, Outsyed the Box, Tabunginsider, Jinggo Photopages, Din Turtle,Asia Sentinel and Malaysia Chronicle have also been blocked.[2]  The legality of MCMC’s action under the CMA in respect of these other websites also appears to be questionable. 

The right to information, or the right to know, is implicit in the guarantee of freedom of speech and expression that belongs to every citizen, as enshrined in Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution.  Indeed, a true democracy envisages a meaningful right to know.[3]  The blocking of access to websites is a serious curtailment of the right to know, as it thwarts the flow or dissemination of information, thoughts and ideas.  This renders the constitutional guarantee in Article 10(1)(a) vacuous or meaningless.[4]

Further, a critical and complementary aspect of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression is contained in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:  “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

In this regard, the freedom of the press is integral to freedom of speech and expression,[5] and is regarded as a necessary derivative of the right to know.[6]  The media, whether publicly- or privately-owned, must be free to report on matters of public interest.  Press freedom encourages transparency, accountability and an open society.[7]  A free press is imperative to the credibility of any democratic system of government. 

While it is recognised that the freedom of speech and expression is not absolute,[8] any restriction of this fundamental liberty cannot be founded on any arbitrary and unlawful exercise of power by the authorities.  This would be nothing less than a frontal assault on the rule of law.

The Malaysian Bar urges the MCMC to abide by the Federal Constitution, respect the rule of law and immediately withdraw the prohibition of public access to the TMI online news portal. 

1 March 2016

[2] (a) “Minister defends blocking, says it broke the law”, Malaysiakini, 4 February 2016. 
     (b) “Four more websites blocked by MCMC”, Malaysiakini, 28 January 2016. 
     (c) “Putrajaya blocks blogs that published leaked Tabung Haji letters”, The Malaysian Insider, 28 January 2016.
     (d) “‘Years of work gone’ after MCMC blocks freelance journo’s site”, Malaysiakini, 28 January 2016.
     (e) “Putrajaya blocks another news site critical of Najib”, Malaysiakini, 21 January 2016.
     (f) “Malaysia Chronicle website blocked”, The Malaysian Insider, 24 October 2015.
[3] Justice JS Verma, “Freedom of Expression.”  World of All Human Rights , Soli J. Sorabjee — A Festschrift.  Ed. RN Trivedi. Universal Law Publishing Co Pvt Ltd, 2015, p.18.
[4] Ibid, p.18.
[5] Bennet Coleman v. Union of India, AIR 1973 SC 106. 
[6] Justice JS Verma, op cit, pp.18-19.
[7] Ibid, p.19. 
[8] Article 10(2)(a), Federal Constitution.