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Sunday, 31 December 2017

Detained without trial clearly in violation of UDHR

PROHAM is alarmed by the disclosure made by the Prison Departments that 2787 people are being detained without trial.

The Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 which permits detention without trial are clearly in violation of Article 9, 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:-

Article 9 provides that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest detention or exile.
Article 10 provides that everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charges against him.
Article 11(1) provides that everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

As a member of the United Nations and having ratified several human rights conventions, Malaysia has affirmed the acceptance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and consequently must respect these rights.

There are sufficient provisions in the Penal Code to deal with those suspected of terrorism or criminal activities. Additionally, to deny these detainees a fair trial is a direct violation of their fundamental human rights as guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.

PROHAM urges the government of Malaysia to either charge these detainees or in the absence of sufficient evidence warranting a charge, act on their immediate and unconditional release.

Released by:

Datuk Kuthubul Zaman, Chairman & Ivy Josiah, Secretary General
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights

Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (PROHAM)

 31 Dec 2017    

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Children in Detention

Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia / PROHAM is alarmed at the disclosure by the Home Minister in Parliament that as many as 142 children have been arrested under the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA) and 17 children under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.

The arrest under POCA provides for a detention without trial. Hence, these children have been deprived of their basic human rights, children deprived of liberty can be vulnerable to abuses.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states, as in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the child by reason of his physical and mental immaturity needs special safeguards and care including appropriate legal protection. Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly provides that no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. It also clearly provides that no child shall be deprived of his/her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. As Malaysia is a signatory to this Convention, the Government must take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discriminations and punishments.
PROHAM urges the Government to respect these rights embodied in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Further, PROHAM calls on the Government to release these children immediately or charge them in the Juvenile Court so that these children are afforded legal rights to defend any allegations made against them. All children have the right to the protection of the law and access to justice.

Released by:
Datuk Kuthubul Zaman, Chairman & Ivy Josiah, Secretary General
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights
Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (PROHAM)  

8 November 2017 

Ivy Josiah
Secretary General of PROHAM- For further information conatct Ivy Josiah at 0123717070

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Groups, individuals condemn crackdown on intellectuals, book banning

KUALA LUMPUR: A joint declaration by more than 150 Malaysians, including those representing 63 groups, denounces what it called a series of crackdowns on intellectuals from Sept 25 to Oct 3.

The individals and groups comprising religious NGOs, human rights NGOs, civil society, student associations and other activist organisations issued a strongly-worded statement which was released at a press conference today.

They condemned the arrest of Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol, the harassment and persecution of Akyol’s host, Farouk Musa of Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), and the banning of 22 books, including discursive writings by Akyol, Farouk, scholar Faisal Tehrani (Mohd Faizal Musa) and cleric Ustaz Wan Ji Wan Hussin.

The groups made four key demands to the federal government and relevant state authorities, as follows:
  • To end all harassments, investigations and charges on Farouk Musa, IRF and their past and future intellectual guests;
  • To lift the ban of the books as well as other books that promote intellectual discourses and moderation;
  • To abolish the Printing Presses and Publications Act and to replace it with a human-rights-compliant publication law;
  • To uphold Freedom of Expression, as enshrined in Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution and to end all thought policing on academics and academia.
“Religious teaching without tauliah [proper accreditation]” (Section 11 of Act 559 in this case) is a shariah offense normally reserved for errant preachers in mosques and surau.
“So, are intellectual discourses in universities involving Islam now being regulated by the relevant religious authorities as well?

“Do universities have to get clearance from the religious departments before inviting any speakers on any topics related to Islam?” the group said over the cancellation of a forum by Nottingham University where Akyol was to speak, due to pressure from the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Affairs Department (Jawi).

The group said Jawi’s actions against Akyol for allegedly “teaching without accreditation” prior to the aborted forum, and against Farouk for allegedly abetting Akyol, has set a dangerous precedent with far-reaching implications for academic freedom and, certainly, freedom of speech in Malaysia.

“As Islam is being applied in almost every sector in Malaysian society, are the religious bureaucrats now the de-facto thought police for the nation to decide what thoughts we can and cannot have?”, the statement said.

Such control, the group says, also seems to be extended to what religious authorities deem fit for reading by Malaysians.

Mind control

“We also view the recent banning of books by Akyol, Farouk , Faisal Tehrani and Ustaz Wan Ji under Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publication Act (PPPA) as a further attempt at mind control.”

Based on the relevant passages in the act that was used by the government to ban these books – “prejudicial to public order, morality, security,” “to alarm public opinion,” or “prejudicial to public interest or national interest” – the group questioned Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi over how did the books do as such.

“How did Zahid find ‘Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty’ and its Malay translation ‘Islam Tanpa Keekstreman: Berhujah Untuk Kebebasan’ by Mustafa Akyol, the two volumes of ‘Wacana Pemikiran Reformis’ edited by Farouk Musa, ‘Aku _ maka aku ada’ (I _ therefore I am) by Faisal Tehrani and ‘Ulamak yang bukan pewaris Nabi’ (Those clergy who are not the Prophet’s successors) by Ustaz Wanji, to be harmful to public order, morality, security, public opinion, public interest or national interest?

“Are ideas like moderation, reform and liberty now enemies of the state?”
The groups said they were coming together as they were concerned the actions taken against Akyol, Farouk and the banning of books were not isolated incidents.

“They seem to be a serious and dangerous escalation in a long and on-going process of thought policing to close the minds of Malaysians, especially Muslims.

“If we do not speak up for Akyol, Farouk, Faisal, Wan Ji and others whom the state want silenced, soon there will be no one left to speak up for us when we are silenced.”

The 50 groups include Sisters in Islam, Aliran, Bersih 2.0, National Human Rights Society (Hakam), Media Independence Movement (Geramm), Suaram, Human Rights Promotion Association (Proham), Pusat Komas, Himpunan Hijau, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and Research For Social Advancement (Refsa).


Saturday, 30 September 2017


PROHAM is concerned at the direction and manner in which the religious authority of Wilayah Persekutuan is interpreting the powers under Section 11 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997.

Invoking this provision of the law against Mustafa Akyol; the world-renowned journalist, author and academic has marred and besmirched Malaysia’s status as a moderate Muslim state in the eyes of the world. The Honourable Prime Minister has always maintained and promoted Malaysia as a moderate Muslim nation and as an example to be followed by other Muslim states. However, this incident unfortunately proves otherwise.

PROHAM notes that Section 11 is not applicable to someone who gives public lectures on comparative religion or conducts an academic discourse on Islam. It does not come within the context of religious education as envisaged under Part X of the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993. Hence, Mustafa Akyol’s detention is unjustified, unlawful and the religious authority concerned has acted in excess of its jurisdiction.

Unnecessary restrictions imposed on journalists, authors and academicians infringe the basic principles of human rights. All religious authorities must respect this basic right. Further, the act of the religious authority in this manner undermines tolerance and respect for the various religious beliefs in a country with multi-racial, multi-religious and a democratic society like ours.
PROHAM calls on the government to ensure that such a conduct by any religious authority is never to be repeated again.

Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari

Chairman, PROHAM
Sept 30, 2017

Sunday, 24 September 2017

PROHAM's response to the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennounce's observations in Malaysia

'PROHAM  shares the views and observations made by the UN Special Rapporteur, Karima Bennounce made on 21/9/17 at the end of her visit to Malaysia.

PROHAM  also urges  the Malaysian government to exercise regional leadership on human rights and to ratify the various International human rights treaties and conventions which are still pending.

Issues raised with regards to the indigenous peoples especially the Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia need to be addressed urgently by the government.  The recommendations made by the relevant UN bodies on the cultural rights of the indigenous peoples must be fully implemented. 

The Special Rapporteur has also raised a long standing national concern about the impact of the unilateral conversion of the children by one parent and PROHAM urges the government to reconsider the proposed amendments to the Law Reform Marriage and Divorce Act which was withdrawn at the last Parliament sitting. 

The Malaysian government should also remove restrictions and bans on artistic and cultural practices as well as on certain authors, publishers, filmmakers, artists and cartoonists. The use of the Sedition Act to quell freedom of expression is regretted and   PROHAM reiterates Ms Karma's call on the government to repeal the Sedition Act and all laws that continuously provide for detentions without trial. We agree too with Ms Karima's observation on gender discrimination, the restrictions on women performing for mixed audiences in Kelantan must be lifted without delay. 

The Malaysian Constitution protects peoples of all faiths (including atheism) and allows them to practice their religion freely. So PROHAM further urges the Malaysian government to respect and protect these rights, including the right not to profess any religion or belief.

Released by:
Datuk Kuthubul Zaman, Chairman & Ivy Josiah, Secretary General 
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights
Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (PROHAM) 
Sept 24. 2017

Sunday, 20 August 2017

PROHAM’s response to the Home Minister’s comments on 15 August 2017

PROHAM is appalled at the position of the Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who while launching his book on the Prevention of Crime Act (POCA) 1959 on 15 August 2017 criticised human rights defenders accusing them of defending criminals. 
The Home Minister reportedly alleged that critics of the law often masquerade as human rights defenders. Apparently he had said, “They claim to defend human rights, but in court, they defend criminals accused by the authorities.”
It is a principle of natural justice that everyone has the right to a trial and to be heard in court. Article 10 of the UDHR states "Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.” 

Furthermore the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is an important element of our criminal justice system. For the Home Minister to ignore this basic right and malign human rights defenders and presumably lawyers who take up cases to defend detainees is to willfully dismiss Article 11 of the UDHR which states "Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.”
If the genuine concern is to eliminate serious crimes including organised crime PROHAM believes we have a battery of existing laws to do just that. We want to take this opportunity to refer to the report by the Royal Commission on the Malaysian Police, which has a dedicated chapter to combating crime. The “ Enhancing Investigative Policing” chapter has 26 recommendations to improve police investigations without having to resort to detention without trial. 

PROHAM strongly opposes detention without trial. 

In 2014, the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (“POCA”) was amended and expanded to reintroduce detention without trial and the recent amendments, the Prevention of Crime (Amendment) Act 2017 (POCAA), further slice off the rights of a detainee. The latest amendments takes away the right to appear before an Inquiry Officer and the Prevention of Crime Board (POCB) so as to respond to the allegations made against the detainee. The detainee is now deprived of a fundamental right to be heard nor have a lawyer make representations before the Inquiry Officer or the POCB. 

PROHAM urges the government of Malaysia to study the Report of the Royal Commission on the Malaysian Police, which states “Preventive laws are undesirable because they deny the individual his personal liberty without a right to trial in an open court as provided for in Article 5 of the Federal Constitution and international Bill of Rights. This right is the most precious that the individual has and it must be safeguarded.” 

Released by:
Datuk Kuthubul Zaman, Chairman & Ivy Josiah, Secretary General
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights
Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (PROHAM)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017


It was reported that several youths lit flares, threw chairs and shoes at the former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the “Nothing to Hide 2.0” forum in Shah Alam on 13 August 2017.

Such despicable behaviour is fast becoming a growing trend in the Malaysian public space with threats of violence or actual violent actions towards politicians, activists and ordinary Malaysians who expressed their opinions concerning the state of Malaysian society and politics. These heinous acts of political gangsterism are aimed at intimidating the democratic contestation of ideas and silencing dissenting opinions.

This trend is worrying particularly with the looming General Elections. Such unruly and criminal behaviour, if left unchecked will inevitably escalate to outbreaks of political violence during the campaigning period.

The Civil Society Organisations listed below:

1.    call upon all peace loving Malaysians irrespective of political views to condemn and reject all forms of political violence as well as any individual and organisation that try to directly or indirectly justify violence or protect the assailants;

2.    urge all political parties to strongly remind their supporters that violence will not be tolerated and to take all precautions to ensure the safety of participants at their public rallies;

3.   implore all sides to utilise the channel of engagement and civil discourse to solve problems rather than resort to violence and uncivilised means.

4.    strongly urge the police to immediately investigate and promptly apprehend the masterminds and perpetrators of this ruthless subversion of our democracy who must be swiftly prosecuted and convicted to show there is no impunity for political violence in Malaysia.

For enquiries, please contact statement coordinator, Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) at 03 2272 3594 or 017 3985 606 or

Endorsed by the following Civil Society Organisations:

1.      All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
2.      Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (WargaAMAN) 
3.      Association of Women Lawyers Malaysia (AWL) 
4.      Baramkini
5.      Community Development Centre (CDC)
6.      ENGAGE
7.      Federation Of Malaysian Indian Organisation (PRIMA) 
8.      Greenfriends Sabah (GF-Sabah) 
9.      G25
10.  Institute For Development Of Alternative Living (IDEAL)
11.  Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) 
12.  Jaringan Rakyat Tertinda (JERIT) 
14.  Kuen Cheng Alumni Association (KCAA) 
15.  Kumpulan Aktivis Mahasiswa Independen (KAMI)
16.  Kuala Lumpur Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) 
17.  LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG) 
18.  Malaysian Indians Progressive Association (MIPAS) 
19.  Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team (MITRA) 
20.  Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility (MPSR) 
21.  Malaysian Youth Care Association (PRIHATIN) 
22.  Merdeka University Berhad (MUB) 
23.  Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF) 
24.  National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)
25.  National Indian Rights Action Team (NIAT) 
26.  Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall (NSCAH) 
28.  Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI) 
29.  Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran) 
30.  Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS) 
31.  Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (PROHAM) 
32.  Persatuan Rapat Malaysia (RAPAT) 
33.  Pertubuhan IKRAM Malaysia (IKRAM) 
34.  Plantation Resource Centre (PRC) 
35.  Projek Dialog (PD) 
36.  Pusat KOMAS  
37.  Sabah Women's Action (SAWO)
38.  Save Rivers 
39.  Saya Bangsa Malaysia (SABM) 
40.  Sisters in Islam (SIS)
41.  Suara Rakyat Malaysia  (SUARAM)
42.  Tamil Foundation (TF) 
44.  Tindak Malaysia (TM)  
46.  Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) 
47.  Women's Centre for Change, Penang (WCC) 
48.  Women Development Organisation of Malaysia PJ Branch
49.  Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI) 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Constitutional view on Bin Abdullah case

File pix: Prof Faruqi with Proham Chair & members at a Proham event a few years ago

Islam is like a mansion with many rooms, and diversity abounds in Islamic jurisprudence.
COURT of Appeal judges Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli, Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Puan Sri Zaleha Yusof must be congratulated for their courageous and principled decision in the “Bin Abdullah” case.
Their verdict is based on sound principles of administrative law and has far-reaching, positive implications for our constitutional system.
The issue, in this case, was whether an illegitimate Muslim child can carry the name of his father.
The child was conceived out of wedlock but the parents had married. The child was born a few days short of six months after marriage.
The relevant law on the point is the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1957, a federal law, which provides as follows:
> Under Section 13, the name of the person acknowledging himself to be the father of the illegitimate child is to be entered in the register as the child’s father provided the mother agrees to it.
> Section 13A(1) provides that “where the person acknowledging himself to be the father of the child in accordance with Section 13 requests so, the surname may be the surname of that person”. 
> Section 13 explicitly bars any other names or surnames except at the joint request of the mother and the person acknowledging himself to be the father.
> The surname “Abdullah” is not mentioned anywhere in the Act.
> The Act makes no distinction (as many laws like the Wills Act do) between a Muslim and a non-Muslim and nowhere does the Act says that it does not apply to Muslims.
According to the court, the statutory law was crystal clear that with the consent of the mother, the father acknowledging responsibility was entitled to have his illegitimate child carry his name.
The complication was that a 1981 and 2003 National Fatwa Council advisory opinion states that an illegitimate Muslim child cannot carry his father’s name but must carry the surname “bin Abdullah”.
Accordingly, the National Registration Department (NRD) felt that it has a higher obligation to apply the Fatwa Council’s advisory opinion over and above the statutory law.
The court found this to be illegal.
Despite the adverse court ruling the NRD is standing its ground and is publicly defying the court.
The unfortunate behaviour of the NRD raises a number of constitutional law issues of critical importance to this nation.
Among them are: the relationship between Islamic law and enacted law, the federal-state division of powers especially on the issue of Islam, the subordination or superiority of our elected parliament to Syariah authorities, and the status of a fatwa as a source of law.
Islam as a source of law: Islam has indeed been given an exalted position as the religion of the Federation. Islamic law applies compulsorily to all Muslims but only in 24 areas specified in Schedule 9, List II, Para 1.
Syariah courts exist but have jurisdiction only over the 24 specified topics. In all other areas like contracts, torts, banking, insurance, commercial transactions and almost all crimes, civil law and not syariah regulates the life of the nation.
National registration is a federal, civil matter in List I, Para 3(e) and the court ruled rightly that rules of syariah are not applicable, unless the 1957 federal law specifically says so, which it does not.
Legitimacy, guardianship and inheritance, on the other hand, are clearly syariah matters and whatever name the child carries, the principles of syariah will be applicable to these situations when the time comes.
Choice of one surname or another will not exclude the syariah as the National Fatwa Council and the NRD seem to fear.
Power over Islam: Each state has independent jurisdiction over the 24 assigned areas of Islam. The National Fatwa Council has no right to trespass on the powers of the State Sultan or to dictate Islamic laws to any state.
In this case, the family concerned is from Johor and because the national fatwa was not adopted by Johor and not duly gazetted, it has no applicability to the state
Status of a fatwa: Fatwas by the various state religious authorities have the status of subsidiary legislation because they are authorised by an enabling, parent law. Being subsidiary legislation, fatwas cannot override primary legislation. In this case the NRD was allowing a federal fatwa to override Section 13A(2) of a federal law.
Belief in supremacy of syariah: It is an exaggeration to argue that all matters concerning Muslims are regulated by the syariah.
Only 24 areas are subject to Islamic law. Thus, if a Muslim murders another Muslim, even if the victim’s family is agreeable in accordance with Islamic jurisprudence to receive blood-money in lieu of punishment, Islamic law cannot displace the Penal Code.
Islam and illegitimate children: Those who do not care about the constitutional perspective but only the Islamic perspective should be reminded that Islam is a mansion with many rooms. Diversity abounds in Islamic jurisprudence.
For example, Perlis allows illegitimate children to carry their fathers’ name. The National Fatwa Council, on the other hand, takes a rigid stand against the child.
The Holy Quran in innumerable passages reminds us that no soul bears the burden of another and no one pays for another’s sins: Surah 35:18, 17:13-15; 39:7. Muslims must, therefore, reflect whether Allah intends to punish in this life and in the hereafter the sons and daughters for misdeeds committed by their parents.
Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi is Tunku Abdul Rahman Professor of Law at Universiti Malaya. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.


Saturday, 15 July 2017


Side Event @ the 2017
High Level Political Forum- UN New York

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017
9:30am to 11am
Baha'i International Community, United Nations Plaza : 866 New York,
NY 10017 Suite 120 (1st Ave and 48th St.) New York Map

Brief write up of the discussion

Malaysia is one of the 44 countries participating in the 2017 National Voluntary Review at the SDG High Level Political Forum in New York in July 17-19, 2017. Malaysia has had an impressive track record in poverty eradication and socio-economic development since independence in August 31, 1957 
At this side event hosted by the Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance who is a member of the Asian Development Alliance (ADA), we aim to provide a CSO perspective in the implementation of SDGs in Malaysia. Malaysian CSOs have formed an Alliance bringing together CSOs involved in development work, human rights activism and environmental concerns. We have had public discussions and networking since Oct 2015 on SDG related matters. We have networked with the Malaysian government and participated in the two national SDG symposiums in 2016 and have been appointed as members on the National SDG Steering Committee hosted by the Economic Planning Unit, Government of Malaysia. We have been active in providing feedback and inputs to the preparation of the National Voluntary Report as well as in the preparation of the Malaysian SDG National Roadmap.
In this New York side event we will review the Malaysian National Voluntary Review Report and discuss the achievements, challenges and way forward for the SDG implementation in Malaysia. We will note the current gaps and also highlight the role civil society is playing to complement the government as well as holding the government accountable to the SDG goals, targets and indicators.

Malaysian NVR                                                        -

Opening Comments

Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Co Chair of the Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance)  who will also moderate the Panel.

Dato Yogesvaran Deputy Director General, Economic Planning Unit, Prime Minister’s Department, Government of Malaysia
Dr Katinka Weinberger (UN ESCAP)

Comments from Malaysian CSOs

Mr Rizal Rozhan (Empower Malaysia)
Ms Chee Yoke Lin (Third World Network)
Ms Lakshmi Lavanya Rama Iyer (WWF Malaysia)
Mr Atama Katama (PACOS Malaysia)
Mr Alizan Mahadi (Global Environmental System Leaders Research Assistant, Keio University, Japan)

Comments from UN & Regional Organisations

Ms Hannie Meesters (UNDP)
Ms Wardarina, Co Chair Asia Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism (AP-RCEM)
Dr Jyotsna Mohan, Regional Coordinator, Asia Development Alliance (ADA)


Participation by registration. Security at the venue building require full name submission as per ID two days before. You must register by July 15 please. Limited spaces available so please register early.For registration & further details contact: Mobile (Malaysian) for text or whatsapp +6019 381 0914. USA mobile number 562-682-8838 (from July 5 to 20, 2017)