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Sunday, 27 October 2013 | MYT 8:29 AM

Much to be done in Malaysia on human rights front

Malaysia's treatment of refugees has been questioned.

Malaysia's treatment of refugees has been questioned.

KUALA LUMPUR: Much more attention and action are needed on the human rights front in Malaysia, said Datuk Ho May Yong, the head of the government delegation to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Malaysia.

“While Malaysia has come a long way, we acknowledge that there are certain areas which require more attention and action,” said Ho, who is also the Foreign Ministry deputy secretary-general for multilateral affairs.

“We acknowledge the shortcomings and challenges that we face,” added Ho in the closing remarks of Malaysia’s UPR process on Thursday.

Many of the 104 United Nations (UN) member states that participated in the interactive session with Malaysia during the second UPR process encouraged the Malaysian government to accede to the six remaining core international human rights conventions which have yet to be signed.

The Coalition of Malaysian NGOs for the UPR Process (Comago), Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) and the Bar Council through its Human Rights Committee also shared Ho’s sentiments for more emphasis on human rights in Malaysia.

“Many countries called for Malaysia to continue its efforts to reduce income inequalities, education opportunities, teacher training and gender sensitivity,” said the various stakeholders in a statement.

Other noteworthy recommendations include measures to monitor human trafficking and improving the welfare of human trafficking victims, better access to healthcare and education for the poor and marginalised communities, and safeguarding the rights and interests of indigenous peoples.

“It will not be easy for the government to ignore these recommendations, as they did not come just from Western countries, but also from other countries in Asia, from Africa and Latin America,” they said.

Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) Tan Sri Hasmy Agam said in a statement that although several positive comments were shared by UN states, Malaysia still needed to improve the human rights situation in the country.

“The Commission is of the view that critically constructive comments and recommendations by the Members States would have served as valid and useful reminders to the Malaysian Government of the need to redouble its efforts to promote and protect the human rights situation in the country,” said Hasmy.

Although Malaysia can choose to either accept or reject the recommendations given by UN member states, Suhakam urged the government to consider accepting “as many constructive and practical recommendations as possible”.

Suhakam hoped that Malaysia would implement the recommendations outlined at this year’s UPR process over the next four and a half years before Malaysia is due to be reviewed for the third time in 2018.

“By which time Malaysia would be on the threshold of becoming a developed nation,” said Hasmy.

Ho reassured the UPR delegations in her closing remarks that the Malaysian government will seriously consider the comments and recommendations made.

“Malaysia has taken this review exercise very seriously and with an open mind,” she said.

Human rights recommendations proposed to Malaysia

During the UPR, each of country was given one minute and five seconds to voice their feedback on Malaysia's performance since the first review in 2009 and to give their respective proposals.

Here are some recommendations from UN states:

- Argentina recommended that to eradicate discrimination against migrant women and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual) community, and work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to respect refugee rights.

- Australia recommended the prompt registered newborns of indigenous people and refugees.

- Austria urged for the freedom to practice and change religions, including the Muslim population. The Austrian representative also recommended media freedom be given to online news portals and bloggers.

- Canada recommended for the ability to worship in peace and security without disturbance, and to recognise freedom of religion. It also recommended the criminalisation of marital rape.

- Denmark made a specific recommendation to amend Section 114A of the Evidence Act 1950 to remove the presumption in relation to Internet and other electronic media postings.

- Iran recommended to combat discrimination against religious minorities.

- Japan recommended the promotion of Internet freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

- New Zealand recommended the setting-up of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission.

- The United States specifically called for the abolishment of repressive laws such as the Sedition Act 1948 and the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984. They also recommended the ratification of the convention on refugees.

- The United Kingdom urges the removal of restrictions on freedom of expression and the creation open spaces for free media practices. They also recommended the abolishment of the death penalty.

Related story:

NGOs disappointed with vague Govt statement at UPR

Tags / Keywords: UPR , Comango , Human Rights , UPR , UNHCR

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