Long road for human rights in M’sia

PETALING JAYA: The government has “back-pedalled” on its keystone election commitments that would have removed for good mechanisms that curtailed human rights in the country, said Tan Sri Razali Ismail.

The former Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chairman said the opportunity to accede to the six remaining international human rights treaties could not have come at a better time.

“But for even the so-called ‘low-hanging fruit’, a consensus could not be reached over the absolute prohibition of torture and the elimination of racial discrimination, for example.

“As 2018 drew to a close and euphoria settled nationwide, it is becoming increasingly clear that the new government would re-evaluate its promises to the people of Malaysia, ” he said in his message in the Suhakam 2018 annual report.

Since Suhakam’s inception about two decades ago, its annual report was debated for the first time at Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

Razali said Suhakam, in describing 2018 a defining year in the history of Malaysia, recognised the challenges inherent in effecting the many commitments made by the new government.

He cited Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s pledge during the UN General Assembly on Sept 28 to accede to the UN statements as well as the government’s plans to abolish the death penalty and repeal the Sedition Act, the Universities and University Colleges Act and Prevention of Crime Act and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act as among the promises.

“A blow to both human rights in Malaysia and Suhakam came in the form of the government distancing itself from participating in our 2018 Human Rights Day celebration that was misreported as a counter-rally as it bowed to political pressure to reject

accession to the International Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discriminations, ” he said.

Razali said Suhakam also recognises the massive efforts still needed to change laws, policies, infrastructure and attitudes following Malaysia’s accession to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010.

“More conversations with the public and various state and non-state actors are required before Kuala Lumpur, let alone Malaysia, can consider itself truly accessible to persons with disabilities, ” he said, expressing the commission’s concern over the existence and continued uses of the “bucket system” in prisons even today.

Later in a statement, Suhakam said debating the report in Parliament signalled the government’s commitment to the improvement of human rights in the country, which also fulfilled one of Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto.

“Suhakam also wishes to extend its appreciation to the 13 MPs who participated in the debate, ” he said.

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