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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

CONDEMN AND REJECT POLITICAL VIOLENCE

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 infogpoam@gmail.com)

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) 
13.  JIHAD for JUSTICE
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) 
27.  ONE RACE-HUMAN RACE
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) 
43.  TENAGANITA
44.  Tindak Malaysia (TM)  
45.  WE ARE MALAYSIANS
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.

Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/reflecting-on-the-law/2017/08/03/constitutional-view-on-bin-abdullah-case-islam-is-like-a-mansion-with-many-rooms-and-diversity-aboun/#BDfyKdOsTPqqgf3V.99



Saturday, 15 July 2017

SDGS & MALAYSIA – CIVIL SOCIETY REFLECTIONS

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

Date:  
Tuesday, 18 July, 2017
Time:  
9:30am to 11am
Venue: 
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                                                        -

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/15881Malaysia.pdf
PANEL OF SPEAKERS:

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)

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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: denisonjayasooria@gmail.com Mobile (Malaysian) for text or whatsapp +6019 381 0914. USA mobile number 562-682-8838 (from July 5 to 20, 2017) 

FROM NEW YORK - MALAYSIA REPORTING AT THE UN & CSO HOSTING A REVIEW DISCUSSION ON SDGs

Press Release

By Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria Co Chair, Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance


The High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2017 is currently ongoing at the United National in New York since July 10, 2017. From Monday July 17 to Wednesday 19, 2017 is the Ministerial session. Malaysia is one among 44 countries that is presenting a country report on the progress made in the implementation of the SDGs and future plans.

The presentation of Voluntary National Reviews was agreed upon by all the governments when the General Assembly in September 2015 collectively agreed to the 2030 SDG Global transformational agenda. They all agreed to share their best practices.

For 2017 the UN is undertaking the reviews based on the theme "Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world" and a focus is on SDG 1,2,3,5,9,14 and 17 of the seventeen SDGs.

Dato' Haji Abdul Rahman Dahlan, the EPU Minister is representing the Malaysian government at the 2017 HLPF and two senior EPU officials are already here in New York namely Dato Yogeswaran and Mr Abdul Halim Abdul Aziz.

The Malaysian report is an 82 page document. It provides a comprehensive overview of the Malaysian achievements in poverty eradication, the aligning of the Eleventh Malaysia Plan and the SDGs as well as noting some of the challenges and the way forward over the next few years till 2030.
This report will be presented and discussed on July 17, 2017 at 5.30pm (New York time) which is 5.30am Malaysian time on July 18, 2017. Malaysian CSOs will have an opportunity to make a statement and ask a question.

Malaysia CSO Side event

Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance is organising a discussion on the Malaysian VNR on July 18, 2017 at 9.30am (Malaysian time at 9.30pm on July 18, 2017 at the Baha'i International Community, United Nations Plaza, New York. 

We have confirmation that the EPU, UN ESCAP and UNDP will participate in this program. From the CSO community there are six representatives here attending the 2017 HLPF and they have all agreed to be on the panel. They are 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) & Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Alliance). They will share their reviews on the Malaysian VNR report.

Among those who have registered to participate are Ms Christina Chelliah the former Miss Malaysia Universe 2002 (1st Runner Up) and Miss Malaysia Tourism World 2002 who now lives in New York with her husband Chris Murphy. Another Malaysian New Yorker who is attending is Mr Ray Tan, the Founder & President of the New York Malaysian Association.

For the Alliance this is a very significant event as our CSO review is also being done at the UN stage in New York. This provide a global review and in the spirt of the SDGs civil society is a key partner in the full realisation of the SDGs. While Malaysian CSOs are appreciative of the networking with the government on SDGs but they have some major concerns with the report which they feel need to be highlighted so as to address the gaps and challenges effectively over the next few years.

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Useful web linkages:-
The Malaysian VNR report is posted on the UN website. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/15881Malaysia.pdf

You can watch the Malaysian country report presentation, live on the UN website on July 18, 2017 at 5.30am. http://webtv.un.org/

We are trying to organise a skype casting of the CSO discussion too and Rizal of Empower is seeking to make some arrangements on this.


July 15, 2017 from New York

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Recent Abductions of five activists

PROHAM is concerned and shocked with regards to the sudden disappearance of the five activists since 5th November 2016; namely Amri Che Mat, Pastor Raymond Koh, Pastor Joshua Hilmi, his wife, Ruth, and most recently Peter Chong. Peter Chong, in a recent public post on Facebook before his disappearance, disclosed an incident where a motorcyclist warned him to be on the alert due to the recent incidents of disappearances.

The ‘Di Mana Mereka?’ Gathering and Candle-Light Vigil held at Dataran Merdeka attended by hundreds of Malaysians last Saturday is testament to the worries and concerns of the Malaysian people by this unnerving development. People are living in a climate of fear; uncertain as to their own safety and that of their family members.

PROHAM urges the Police to put a stop to this dangerous trend. The Police needs to address the decline in public confidence and to ensure public order is maintained. PROHAM therefore urges the police to expedite their investigation, to bring those responsible for these criminal acts to justice. PROHAM urges the Police to uphold their duties to protect the freedom and the liberties of all Malaysians.

Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari
Chairman,
PROHAM ( Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia) 
April 11, 2017

Thursday, 23 March 2017

LAUNCH OF PROHAM’S LATEST BOOK

By Datuk Kuthubul Zaman, PROHAM Chairman

PROHAM was registered with the Registrar of Societies on 10th March 2011, making us 6 years old. The question to be asked I suppose is; over the 6 year period what has PROHAM achieved? Have we achieved what we set out to do those six years ago? When we first started, we were always aware of our shortcomings in being a small society with limited resources. However, powered by our ideals of a Malaysia as a rights-respecting democracy, we, along with our compatriots; Hakam, Suaram, the Malaysian Bar, Bersih, Suhakam and the many other NGOs have worked diligently at the promotion of Human Rights in Malaysia. It is therefore very disheartening that despite all the work put in, human rights in Malaysia is regressing instead of progressing.

So where have we gone wrong? Could we have done better? Could we have done more? To answer these questions, our very conscientious outgoing Secretary General, Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria decided to document all the work done by PROHAM over the last 6 years in book form entitled ‘Championing Human Rights in Malaysia: PROHAM through the years 2011 – 20116’. It is a tasked well carried out, despite the short period of less than 30 days. Both Tan Sri Simon Sipaun and I were merely given a few days to give our overview as the book needed to go to the printers as soon as possible.

Finally, today you can see for yourself the printed copy of the book ready to be launched. You will see from the contents all the work that we have all done in the name of promoting Human Rights in Malaysia. This includes no less than 62 Roundtable discussions, a total of 134 press statements released on various human rights issues and concerns. Despite our membership of only 18 full members and four Hon members, this book is testimony to the small legacy that PROHAM has already left behind and to the tireless efforts of all of us in realising our ideals.

With that glimpse to the past and with renewed vigour for the next term, I hereby officially launch ‘Human Rights in Malaysia: PROHAM through the years 2011 – 2016’! May the coming terms prove to be just as fruitful. Thank you.


March 23, 2017 at the PROHAM’s 7th AGM

FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT OF ACCESS TO JUSTICE


By Datuk Kuthubul Zaman

I must admit that there are a lot more human rights issues which we need to address. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the fundamental right of access to justice. Mauro Cappellatti, an Italian jurist said
“The right of effective access to justice has emerged with the new social rights. Indeed it is of paramount importance... effective access to justice can be seen as the most basic requirement, the most basic human right, of a system which purports to guarantee legal rights”
Are Malaysians and those residing in this country guaranteed that basic human right? If one were to go on a random day to a Criminal Magistrates Court, it is disheartening to see that a large number of accused are not legally represented, mostly because they do not have the means to engage a lawyer.

The Malaysian Bar Council in 1983 passed a resolution to set up a Legal Aid Scheme whereby every lawyer is required to contribute RM 100 to the scheme every year. To run the scheme, every lawyer is encouraged to take up at least one legal aid case per year. Chambering pupils must be at the Legal Aid Centre at least for 2 weeks to assist in running the Centre. This Scheme is the first in the world and no other Bars have such a scheme. The Government of Malaysia also had set up the Biro Bantuan Guaman to assist those who cannot afford a lawyer in areas of divorce and limited civil cases.

However, these steps are insufficient. Despite these legal aid schemes, about 80% of accused persons are unrepresented in court. The Bar Council then mooted the idea of the Government setting up the Yayasan Bantuan Guaman Kebangsaan (YBGK). After much persuasion, the Government set up the YBGK on 25/1/2011. The YBGK scheme has been running smoothly but of late, there has been considerable delay in payments to lawyers doing YBGK work. This unfortunately resulted in some lawyers declining YBGK work. Thankfully, the new President of the Bar, George Varughese has identified the source of the delay being administrative delays in the checking of claims.

However, PROHAM would urge the Board of the YBGK to resolve these issues immediately to enable every accused person to have legal representation in Court. PROHAM would also urge the government to increase the budget allocation so that the work of YBGK will not only be to provide legal representation to the accused person in a Criminal case but to include those who need legal representation in civil cases.

Additionally, access to justice is not just limited to access to lawyers and courts. It means access to various tribunals, advice agencies and the police law. In cases of death in police custody, the family of the victims must also have access to justice. The number of deaths in custody is alarming. The Deputy Prime Minister revealed in Parliament recently that there are 1654 deaths in custody cases since 2010 until February 2017. Even one death in custody is one too many.

The Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police 2005 in its report recommended the setting up of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). If such a body has been set up, the victims of death in Police Custody can lodge a complaint to IPCMC to enable the independent oversight body to investigate. Currently, it is the police who investigate such issues. Clearly this is not acceptable.

Once again, PROHAM urges the government to set up the IPCMC immediately. On this issue, PROHAM will consider organising a roundtable discussion on access to justice in the near future.

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Delivered by Datuk Kuthubul Zaman, PROHAM Chairman (2014 -2017) who was re-elected for a second term on March 23, 2017 at the PROHAM AGM for another term from 2017 – 2020. March 24, 2017 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

National SDG Roadmap - CSO Reflections


ASLI-CCPS together with the CSO-SDG Alliance hosted a discussion on the National SDG Roadmap- CSO Reflections entitled ‘Leaving no one behind’ on March 14, 2017 in Kuala Lumpur
JOINT STATEMENT BY ASLI-CPPS & CSO_SDG ALLIANCE


We had a lively discussion yesterday and inputs from Civil Society Organisation (CSO) experts on the panel was very refreshing. The thoughts centred on themes such as environment & sustainability by Lavanya Rama Iyer (WWF); human rights and the Universal periodical review by Rizal Rozhan (EMPOWER); poverty & inequality  by Dr Lin Mui Kiang (PROHAM); gender mainstreaming by Sunitha Bisan (NCWO) and access to justice by Andrew Khoo (Bar Council). From the presentations and feedback from the participants we can recognise ten key pointers as inputs into the preparation of the National SDG Roadmap.

First, it is recognised that Malaysia has seriously taken the SDGs goals for public policy planning. We noted that we can recognise the synergies between the SDGs and the Eleventh Malaysia Plan. This is especially so in the chapters addressing the educational, heath & human wellbeing, Bottom 40%, the multidimensional poverty indicators and in the green growth for sustainability. It was noted that this was a very good start but the challenge is in the implementation.

Second it was also acknowledged that the Economic Planning Unit has created the spaces for CSO participation at the national discussions in 2016 and also in the National SDG Steering Committee, thematic cluster groups and also the in the specific taskforces.  CSOs appreciate the spaces and hope for ongoing participation in planning, deliver, monitoring and implementation recognising that this is a fifteen year agenda incorporating three Malaysia plans (Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth).

Third, it was recognised that much of the focus in national policy discussions have been on the 17 SDG goals along with the 169 targets and 230 indicators. While this is necessary and important it is necessary to draw on the UN Transformational document – Agenda 2030 which has the substantive background, ethos and ideology undergirding the goals, targets and indicators. Without the framing documents and themes the exercise will just become a technical process losing the substance and depth. It will miss the focus on paradigm of sustainability development.

Fourth, some thematic and cross cutting concerns were highlights. It was noted that the National SDG Roadmap discussions lacked the discussion on the philology of sustainability and development such as the balance between people, profits and planet in a sustainable way. It is not enough just to use these terms as slogans but it must be ingrained as the conflicts and contestation comes in the implementation and often economic and business value and considerations are placed on higher priority than people and the environment.

Fifth, of utmost importance is to strengthen our understanding and commitment in three area namely towards a sustainability agenda and framework, then on gender mainstreaming or gender lenses not just SDG 5 but the whole agenda for change, as well as human rights as a cross cutting theme of not just economic, social, cultural rights but also civil and political rights namely that people have right to voice their concerns and participation in holding the State actors accountable. Access to information becomes a central right for participation and holding the State actors accountable.

Sixth, we also noted that there were some mismatches between the targets and indicators set at the global level. There is a need to have national indicator setting forums to formulate what are specific indicators which will capture the aspirations of Malaysians at the national context. In this context alternative indicators could be developed such as indicators for natural capital and its value, well-being or quality of life index and multidimensional poverty index for B40 and urban poor which capture their aspirations for social mobility and well-being.

Seventh, it was noted that local government including the district office at the grassroots play should play a major role in SDG implementation. There must be more work done in creating greater awareness and enhancing their ‘buy-in’ in this process especially from agency officers at the district level as well as the local authorities. They must adopt a sustainability agenda for local governance. The Local agenda 21 was mentioned as a good example but its full potential was not tapped at the local governance level.

Eight, it was also expressed that there should be a review undertaken on the specific issues and recommendations raised in the UPR process on human rights compliance alongside the SDG goals and targets. The common areas and concerns should be tabulated and discussed. This will enable the National SDG Roadmap to also take note of the UPR obligations.

Ninth that the role of CSO and nature of engagement need to be more clearly defined. CSOs do not want ad hoc participation. They want to be equal partners with the public sector at planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. They like to ensure that there are adequate structures and resources that can enable effective participation. It was strongly expressed that public funds should be made available to CSOs in implementing the SDGs especially in undertaking awareness programs, coordination, capacity building and enhancing the richness, quality and diversity of CSO engagement in this process.

Finally it was also noted that CSOs like how we engage with the public sector should strengthen alliances with private sector as there are many good CSR initiatives by businesses. It is hoped that more public sector companies especially the public listed ones will also adopt the sustainability ethos and framework for the total operations in additions to undertaking CSR projects. The call is to move beyond CSR to frame it in SDG terms.


Jointly issued by Tan Sri Michael Yeoh (ASLI-CPPS) & Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (CSO-SDG Alliance). March 15, 2017