Govt committed to reforms but must do more, says Suaram


KUALA LUMPUR: Enacting the Public Finance and Fiscal Responsibility Act 2023 and the ongoing drafting of the Ombudsman Bill show there is commitment to legislative reforms by the unity government, says Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).

Despite these efforts, Suaram, a human rights group, voiced concern over the absence of a definitive timeline for the administration’s other reforms and measures to resolve issues surrounding governance and corruption.

“No timeline for reform is given (by the government) on the separation of the offices of the Attorney General and the Public Prosecutor,” said Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy.

The government’s commitment to tackle corruption and governance is also diluted by extending the tenure of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki, he said.

“(There is also) a continued lack of transparency in government-linked company appointments,” he said during the launch of Suaram’s Malaysia Human Rights Report 2023 here yesterday.

On Dec 5, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim expressed his commitment to monitor the implementation of announcements made by ministers under a special unit, Pantau Madani.

The unit which will be placed under the Prime Minister’s Department would be responsible for assessing whether government programmes achieved their goals.

In its report, Suaram said a key reform championed by the government but which has been delayed, is the establishment of an Ombudsman to replace the existing Public Complaints Bureau.

The Ombudsman is a federal body that manages and investigates complaints against the public service.

The bill to establish the body was initially slated to be tabled in Parliament in October after several consultation sessions with stockholders.

“However, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman divulged that the scope function and role of the body had to be re-evaluated due to redundancies and similarities to other oversight agencies such as the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), the report said.

Suaram is also concerned with amendments to the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 such as changes to certain legal definitions and introducing an internal complaint mechanism.

“Details of the amendments to the Act have yet to be released to the public, hence, it is too early to determine whether it will drafted in a comprehensive manner to achieve the intended goals,” the report read.

Yesterday’s launch also saw Suaram conferring the 25th Suaram Human Rights Award to the Light Brigade from Sabah and Family Frontiers’ Network of Malaysian Mothers for Equal Citizenship (Family Frontiers).

The award was in recognition of their impactful work on the right to education and citizenship respectively.

Recipients will each receive a certificate, trophy and a prize of RM500.

The Light Brigade is a group of three secondary school girls from Kota Belud who took their English teacher, their school and the Sabah Education authorities to court after the teacher failed to attend class for a year.

On July 19, the High Court judge awarded them a total RM150,000 in damages to be paid by the five plaintiffs which included the teacher, Mohd Jainal Jamran, the then-principal of SMK Taun Gusi Suid Hanapi, the Education Department director-general, the education minister and the government.

Meanwhile Family Frontiers is a peer support network consisting of 250 Malaysian mothers who could not confer citizenship to their children due to laws that discriminated against their gender.

The group evolved into a formidable entity that advocates for constitutional amendments so that Malaysian women with foreign spouses have the equal right to confer citizenship on their overseas-born children.

Their campaigns have led the Malaysian government to draft amendments to citizenship laws.

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