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Thursday, 23 March 2017


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


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.


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

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

Monday, 6 March 2017

PROHAM calls on the Police for effective action in finding Pastor Raymond Koh

PROHAM expresses concern over the rise of people’s feeling of insecurity and public safety due to the different crime incidences in the Klang valley.

We are shocked to read in the media of the abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh on Feb 13, 2017 and the concerns raised by the family. The video clipping of that alleged abduction widely circulated in the social media has further shocked the general public on how well organised and managed was this abduction.

PROHAM urges the Police to thoroughly investigate this matter and maintain good communication with the family and the general public. Effective Police action and timely clarifications are of utmost importance to dispel any rumours concerning this abduction and the perception of rising crime and violence in Malaysian cities.

PROHAM is absolutely disappointed with the nature of Police action, roadblocks and the large number of Police personal not allowing entrance to anywhere near the Police HQ in Shah Alam. This was a peaceful prayer vigil by concerned citizens along with the family members including the wife of Pastor Raymond Koh. A pray vigil for the abducted Pastor and also for the Police officials who are investigating the incident.

PROHAM is of the opinion that the Police could have used this occasion to extend friendship and support to the family and concerned citizens. This would have been a good gesture in line with community policing rather than the tough Police action taken last night.

Statement issued by Datuk Kuthbul Zaman (Proham Chairman) and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Proham Secretary General) March 6, 2017


Friday, 3 March 2017

Global Human Rights

Bar Council's Human Rights Committee co-chairperson Andrew Khoo fears that Malaysia will use US President Donald Trump's anti-human right policies in justifying similar approaches taken by Putrajaya.
Malaysians who speak about the importance of human rights and uphold fundamental rights would be disregarded, he said.
"This is the worrying part, (they would say,) 'If the US can do it, why can't we continue to do it?'," he said.
"When Trump said US first, he basically said everybody else is not a priority, that has a trickle down effect on the rest of the world, too," he said.
Trump, the controversial US president who took office on Jan 20, was widely criticised as a threat to human rights, anti-globalisation and labelled sexist and racist.
Amnesty International had claimed the divisive and "poisonous" language used by Trump is putting vulnerable populations at risk and making the whole world a more dangerous place
Rise of right-wing Christians in M'sia?
Beside worrying about the spillover effect on the human rights movement in Malaysia and other parts of the world, Khoo also claimed Trump's white supremacy has affected Malaysia.
"Since the day US did not vote against the resolution of the (United Nation) Security Council in December (2016) which criticised Israel for building settlements, I have received (messages on how) the resurgence of right-wing Christians have taken control.
"Even though I am a Christian, this is frightening to me because there are so many people in Malaysia who seem to support the right-wing Christian agenda coming from the US," he added.
"I wonder why? If you are talking about role models, definitely Trump is not a role model," he told the room packed with more than 150 people.
The pro-Israel and anti-Arab approaches taken by US on this matter and the putting aside of human rights was rather dangerous, he said.
He also expressed concern on the phenomenon in the country where non-Muslim are being labelled as anti-Islam while those who are not mainstream Muslim being deemed as deviant and terrorist when they speak on religious issues.
US would not attend to help foreign countries
Khoo offered his personal views at the forum titled 'Global Human Rights In the Era of President Trump' held by Penang Institute in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur last night.
Other speakers were former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, Promotion of Human Rights Malaysia (Proham) secretary-general Denison Jayasooria and Human Rights Watch Asia deputy director Phil Robertson.
Describing Trump as having brought "unmitigated disaster" to human rights, Robertson expected things were likely to get worse before they got better.
Robertson said he wasn't sure how US would react when civil society from the rest of the world, including Malaysia, seek help on human rights issues.
Citing activist Lena Hendry's prosecution, he said the then-US ambassador was persuaded to talk to the Sri Lanka high commissioner in Malaysia, to urge the government to drop the prosecution against her.
"We are not going to have that any more," he said.
Denison feared that Trump's rhetoric would have an impact on the minorities if the ethno-religious nationalist take centre stage, as had happened in India and Myanmar.
While noting the narrowing space for the civil society who uphold equal rights, he remained optimistic with the future of US and the rest of the world.
"I think the US society will rise (against Trump) because the institutions and media are strong, they are holding him accountable and it will help the US to rediscover its soul," he said.
He urged Malaysians to show solidarity with Americans who were impacted by Trump's policies.
He wanted the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) which was advocated by Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) for some years, to be implemented by the government.
Muslim countries urged to examine 'discriminatory policies'
Pillay, who is also a former judge of the International Criminal Court, expressed her disappointment with the absence of Suhakam chairperson Razali Ismail at the forum.
"I am surprised and a little disappointed that the chair of Suhakam did not attend the discussion. The national human rights institution is the watchdog and guardian in ensuring the government implements its undertaking internationally," she said. 
Pillay pointed out that the US courts had placed a stay on Trump's travel ban against seven Muslim countries on the grounds the discrimination on religious ground was unconstitutional and violated international laws.

"Now, it's time that Muslim-majority countries need to also take a deep look on whether their policies on religious grounds are something that Trump vouches for.
"When you exclude and discriminate minorities of other religious and ethnic groups in favour of one sect of a particular religion, then you are doing exactly what Trump is doing now," she said.
This is the appropriate moment for this to be examined by countries that discriminate on religious grounds, she said.
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