Proham Logo

Proham Logo

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Civil society demands that the government stops harassing and stigmatising NGOs ― Hakam & civil society NGOs

DECEMBER 15 ― 1. We, members of Civil society (represented by the organisations listed below) are greatly concerned by the recent developments pertaining to the arrest of Puan Maria Chin Abdullah under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, the summoning of activists from Suaram, Lawyers for Liberty and Empower for investigations, the police raid and seizure of the offices of Bersih and Empower and the numerous news reports making allegations against various organisations in respect of the foreign funding, including the Malaysian Bar Council.
2. We are also perturbed by news reports of the Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announcing the formation of a task force to probe into NGO funding and accusing them of enticing revolutions to topple the present government and news reports of Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan’s reply to the numerous concerns regarding local human rights issues raised by Maina Kiai the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in his recent visit to Malaysia.
3. The recent events and published news reports give the impression that the authorities are out to discredit and demonise human rights activists and civil society organisations who have voiced criticisms and dissent against the government.  
4. Of particular concern is the stigmatisation of the receipt of foreign funding by civil society organisations, stating that this is tantamount to “treason” and/or “interference of foreign bodies” which threatens the nation. Allegations that such funding are used to topple the government are preposterous. Funding of civil society activities in areas of education, advocacy, monitoring and campaigning for strengthening of our democratic process are legitimate activities.
5. Civil society in Malaysia who voice criticism of public affairs often face difficulties in raising funds locally, as donors (both individuals and body corporates) are fearful of repercussions. Statements discouraging support have been made by the authorities from time to time. Government funding is rarely available to NGOs that have openly voiced criticism of the government and its work.
6. Civil society has a vital part to play in democratic and developmental processes in Malaysia, alongside government agencies and business corporations.  The role of activists in promoting the common good has been duly recognised by the Court of Appeal recently. The existence of civil society and the work of activists should not be threatened by limitations and restrictions on funding.
7. Freedom of association is guaranteed under the Federal Constitution (See: Article 10). The freedom of association encompasses not only the right to form and join any associations but also to seek, receive and use resources ― human, material and financial ― from domestic, foreign, and international sources for activities of the associations (See: Article 13, Declaration of Human Rights Defenders adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, A/RES/53/1999).
8. We wish to state categorically that as members of civil society, which may from time to time voice our concerns about public affairs, we are not “traitors” to the nation. Dissenters ought not be treated as enemies of the state. For a true parliamentary democracy to exist, we must be free to voice our concerns.
9. As civil society groups which advocate for transparency and accountability, we remind the government that our accounts are made available through the filing of yearly returns.
10. We urge the government to respect the role that civil society plays in our country’s democracy and in nation building.  We also urge the government to stop the harassment of activists and NGOs through threats of arrests, raids and seizures. NGOs have the same rights as businesses and government to receive foreign funding, and should not be stigmatised for it.
This memorandum was submitted by (in alphabetical order):
1. Aliran
2. Amnesty International - Malaysia
3. Anak Muda Sarawak
4. Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM)
5. Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (Wargaaman)
6. Association of Women Lawyers
7. Malaysia Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
8. Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4)
9. Community Action Network (CAN)
12. Himpunan Hijau
14. Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
15. Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)
16. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
17. Kesatuan Mahasiswa Malaysia (KMM)
18. Lawyers for Liberty (LFL)
20. Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
21. Malaysian Indians Progressive Association (MIPAS)
22. Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team (MITRA)
23. Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility
24. Malaysian Youth Care Association (PRIHATIN)
25. Movement for Change Sarawak (MoCS)
26. Oriental Hearts and Minds Study Institute (OHMSI)
27. Partners of Community Organisation (PACOS)
28. Penang Indepedent Schools Education Society
29. People Welfare and Rights Organisation (Power)
30. Permas
31. Persatuan Hak Asasi Manusia (HAKAM)
32. Persatuan Pengguna Klang
33. Persatuan Rapat Malaysia (RAPAT)
34. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita
35. Selangor Pusat Komas
36. Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)
37. Rise of Sarawak Efforts (ROSE)
38. Sisters in Islam
39. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
40. Tenaganita
41. Tindak Malaysia
42. Tobpinai Ningkokoton Koburuan Kampung (TONIBUNG)
43. University of Malaya Association of New Youth (UMANY)
44. Women’s Aid Organization
- See more at:

Sunday, 11 December 2016

What do Malay youth in KL low cost flats think about SDG and Malaysia?

By Rama Ramanathan (Proham Secretariat) 

When you ask youth, aged 15-25 years, from the Malay community, what they think of Malaysia, what answers do you expect? When you ask them what they don’t like? When you ask them what they would like to see changed?

Today I had the opportunity to listen to the responses of 5 girls and 6 boys to those questions.
The questions were posed to them after they had been introduced to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations. These are the goals which UN member states, including Malaysia, have decided to focus on until 2030.

It is a misnomer to say they were introduced to the goals, because the youth were not told any numerical goals, e.g. “reduce poverty to 0.1% by 2030.” It is more accurate to say they were introduced to a checklist of things which must be protected or enhanced to improve global well-being.

The session began with an icebreaker. The youth were made to stand in a circle, with hands outstretched. A facilitator bound all their hands together, running a ball of string around the wrists of one then doing the same to a person diametrically opposite and again to his or her neighbour, over and over.

When everyone had been bound, one person was asked to step backwards. The result was that the all who were bound in the circle were pulled towards that person.

The point was proven: what one person (or nation) does or what is done to one person (or nation) affects all the others.

In the next exercise the youth wrote, on strips of paper, what they felt the needs were in their community, which comprises about 1,600 households living in five blocks of flats. Their responses were collected for use later in the morning.

Next, the youth were introduced to the 17 items in the SDG checklist:

No electronic technology was used. An instructor used a bunting very like the picture above, but with the text in Malay. He took less than one minute to explain each item. The youth had little trouble grasping why each item was in the SDG checklist.

Their understanding was reinforced when the facilitators read out a selection of the needs they had earlier submitted in writing. Each of the needs was associated to an item in the SDG checklist by sticking its slip onto an item.

One memorable need was “I wish my shoes wouldn’t be stolen.” There was some discussion about which item this need belonged to. Did it belong to 16: Peace and Justice? Or to 10: Reduced Inequalities? Or to 1: No Poverty? They decided on “1.”

A second memorable need was the strong agreement amongst all the youth that the school system tells and directs pupils instead of seeking out and responding to their desires.

The exercise admirably demonstrated to everyone that the checklist, though generated by “big shots” from all over the world, was directly relevant to this community in Kuala Lumpur. The youth were impressed that the government of Malaysia has committed to pursue goals for each item in the checklist.

After the relevance of the list had been demonstrated and the commitment of the government had been announced, the next exercise was introduced. The youth were asked to answer the 3 questions posed at the beginning of this article.

The youth were in broad agreement that there are many good things in Malaysia. Poverty isn’t as bad as it is in other nations, the weather is good, the food is good and the music is good.

The used the word “government” often when they listed what they don’t like about Malaysia.
The cost of living has risen faster than incomes, as a result of which their parents struggle to make ends meet; public transport hasn’t been developed sufficiently, as a result of which people spend much time in traffic jams; there aren’t enough jobs, as a result of which there is much unemployment; the population density is too high.

There was little time to discuss what they’d most like to see improved, but one matter did emerge. They felt assessing pupils through field work rather than exams is an ill-conceived decision implemented by educators. They said it’s hard for their parents to fund their field work, because they already can’t make ends meet.

This was a vibrant sample of youths. They were quick to grasp concepts and eager to share their thoughts about how things are going both in their own community and in the nation in general.

This day generated proof that it is relatively easy to explain the sustainable development goals. It showed we can easily adopt a common, global framework for addressing needs collaboratively. The United Nations and Malaysia have chosen well in rolling out the SDG.


The SDG awareness program among urban neighbourhood was held on Dec 11, 2016 (sun) at the PPR Seri Semarak flats at Air Panas, Kuala Lumpur

Friday, 9 December 2016

Johor Bahru Public Forum on The State of Human Rights in Malaysia Today

Rama Ramanathan (Proham Secretariat) speaking at the forum

The Johor Bar Committee invited Proham to speak at a public forum titled “The State of Human Rights in Malaysia,” on 8 December. Proham was represented by Rama Ramanathan (Proham Secretariat).

Other panelists were Tommy Thomas (eminent lawyer and author), YB Khalid Samad (Amanah MP for Shah Alam) and YB Rafizi Ramli (PKR MP for Pandan). The moderator was Datuk Yeo Yang Poh (President of the Malaysian Bar, 2005-2007).

In a presentation titled “The State of Demonstrations in Malaysia,” Rama built on the learnings from the Proham/KLSCAH post-Bersih 5 roundtable “Lessons in Citizen’s Mobilization for Institutional Democratic Reform in Malaysia" (19 Nov 2016).

Rama began by showing the difference between the police approach to assemblies in Kuala Lumpur and in London. He did this by reading extracts from Malaysia’s Public Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) and from guidance provided by London’s Metropolitan police to organisers of public assemblies.
Rama showed that the guidance provided by the Malaysian police amounts to “avoid demonstrations” or “if you must demonstrate, use a stadium,” while the guidance provided by the London police amounts to facilitation of assemblies.

Rama posed the question “In London, on the day of the assembly, what are the organizers responsible for?”

He said the London police accept responsibility, including during assemblies, for (1) protecting life and property, (2) preserving order, (3) preventing the commission of offences and (4) any duty or responsibility arising from common or statute law. He said Malaysians expect their police to accept the same responsibility. He then noted the decision of the Malaysian police to cordon themselves off from the Bersih 4 and 5 assemblies, and argued that by doing so the Malaysian police were derelict in their duty.

Rama also posed the question “In London, on the day of the assembly, what are the organizers responsible for?”

He said the London police provide explicit guidance, in a four page, 38 paragraph document which includes the following references to “stewards”:

1.    There should be enough stewards [1:50] to express the organisers’ wishes to all the participants.
2.    Stewards must be briefed so that they know the organisers’ intentions and directions.

3.    Stewards should be fitted, both physically and temperamentally, to carry out the organisers’ wishes and to ensure that the participants comply with them. It is advised that stewards should be over 18 years of age.

4.    Stewards should be easily identifiable so that participants and others know that they represent the organisers.

5.    Stewards should be in communication with the organisers throughout the event.
6.    Stewards must immediately inform police if any matter requires police attention.
7.    Stewards must not carry or have near them any weapon.

Rama added that, in KL, the police and government discourage the public from exercising the freedom of speech, assembly and association enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
Whereas, in London, the police and government facilitate the public exercise of these freedoms, to the extent of including in their guidance “If banners are to be used it is essential that they are designed with a hole to reduce the risk of danger when they are used in high winds.”

Rama urged the audience of about 150 persons to accept “Fact #1: In Malaysia, the police are at best reluctant facilitators of public assemblies.”

By similarly arguing from evidence, Rama urged the audience to accept that there are four other indisputable facts about the state of assemblies in Malaysia.

This is the list he provided:

Fact #1: In Malaysia, the police are at best reluctant facilitators of public assemblies.

Fact #2: On 19 November, the CPO of Kuala Lumpur allowed a counter assembly instead of exercising his right under section 18 of the PAA to order the counter assembly to be held at a different place or time.

Fact #3: The Malaysian police meted out extra-judicial punishment when they detained leaders of Bersih 5 on the eve of the assembly. By doing so the police massively increased the burden on the rally organisers to discharge their responsibilities under the PAA, and potentially threatened the safety of protesters.

Fact #4: The police wrongfully equated the peaceful yellows – with a track record of peaceful assembly vouched for by Suhakam and court inquiries – with the violent reds who had to be restrained by water cannons in KL in September 2015 and who had wreaked havoc in the 50 days of convoys prior to 19 November.

Fact #5: The police facilitated the red shirts, who assembled in the shadow of the Umno building in KL, were led by a well-known Umno leader, wore masks and proclaimed their only goal was to disrupt Bersih 5 protesters.

Tommy Thomas focused on 1MDB, which he said is clearly a case of wrongdoing, defence of wrongdoing and cover up of wrongdoing by the government of the day. He said the right to be ruled by upright persons is denied when the perpetrators of the offences committed by 1MDB remain unprosecuted.

Khalid Samad lamented that the Umno-led ruling coalition stresses the Islamic teachings on obedience to authority and ignores the equally Islamic teachings that oppressors must be resisted.

Rafizi Ramli asked those present to be more attentive to prosecutions under SOSMA (Security Offences (Special Measures) Act), POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and POCA (Prevention of Crime Act). He said he knew of many cases of unrepresented persons, including youths, who have been ordered to be detained for years for offences such as downloading videos which promote groups such as the so-called Islamic State.

Rama Ramanathan, Datuk Yeo Yang Poh, Tommy Thomas, S Gunasegaran
(Chairman, Johor Bar Committee), YB Rafizi Ramli, YB Khalid Samad

Public Forum to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Adoption of ICCPR and ICESCR by UNGA

Time:2:30 pm to 6:00 pm
Date:16 Dec 2016 (Friday)
Venue:Raja Aziz Addruse Auditorium, Bar Council, Second Floor, Straits Trading Building, Leboh Pasar Besar, 50050 Kuala Lumpur

Fifty years ago, on 16 Dec 1966, the United Nations General Assembly (“UNGA”) adopted two very important covenants: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”).

On that day, the UNGA turned its attention to the world of men and women, along with the sum of those realities in the midst of which they live, declaring that men and women equally must enjoy their civil and political rights, as well as their economic, social and cultural rights, free from fear and want.  With the current political climate of our country and the world at large, these documents indeed remain salient to us today.

The Bar Council Human Rights Committee (“HRC”) therefore finds it especially crucial this year to examine with care and in depth the affirmation of rights made in both the ICCPR and the ICESCR, and to discuss beyond fair-sounding phrases particularly on the obligation of States to promote universal respect for human rights and freedoms.

The HRC is thus organising a public forum — with support from the British High Commission, Kuala Lumpur — to commemorate the golden anniversary of the ratification of both these covenants.

About the Speakers

Edmund Bon Tai Soon is Malaysia’s representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (“AICHR”) for the 2016-2018 term
Cynthia Gabriel is a prominent activist and anti-corruption warrior.  She is the Founding Director of the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism, otherwise known as “C4”.  She will address the issue of civil and political rights, and issues of governance and integrity, transparency and accountability
Datuk Denison Jayasooria is the Secretary-General of the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (“PROHAM”).  He will address the issue of economic, social and cultural rights, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Deputy High Commissioner of the United Kingdom to Malaysia, Paul Rennie OBE, will deliver the opening remarks.

The forum will be moderated by Firdaus Husni, Co-Chairperson of the HRC.

University and university college students are especially encouraged to attend.  Tokens of appreciation will be awarded for the best and most interesting topical questions posed to the panellists during the question-and-answer session.

This forum is open to the public, and admission is free of charge.

To register for the public forum, please complete and submit the attached registration form by email to; or by fax to 03-2031 6640.

Should you have any enquiries, kindly contact Satha Selvan, Senior Administrative Assistant (03-2050 2092; or Sumitha Shaanthinni Kishna, Assistant Director (03-2050 2090;

Thank you.

Andrew Khoo Chin Hock and Firdaus Husni 
Co-Chairpersons, Bar Council Human Rights Committee

Circular No 276/2016 : Dated 9 Dec 2016