IT is regrettable that Tan Sri Razali Ismail resigned as chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) a fortnight before the end of his tenure.
Razali’s stellar performance in Suhakam is notable as he brought new fervour, feistiness and fame to the human rights cause. Together with his other commissioners, he was unstinting and outstanding in championing human rights in the repressive environment of the previous regime.
Suhakam was also constrained by a much reduced operating budget and yet it performed well.
It can be recalled that when the date for the 14th General Election was announced, Suhakam more than the Election Commission was determined to ensure that the opposition parties were allowed to have the space essential to conduct their campaign.
Razali was prescient in predicting that the opposition had a fair chance in winning GE14.
It is open to speculation that a fortnight before the end of his tenure, he had not been told about a possible successor. Neither had he received communication from the appropriate authority expressing appreciation for his services.
It has to be presumed that on account of these factors, he decided to resign and relinquish the chairmanship. He added a nice parting shot that his resignation would give the government more time to identify his successor. In the absence of any additional information from an authoritative source, this whole episode could become a subject for unnecessary speculation.
The chairmanship of Suhakam is one of the nation’s most critical appointments especially at this juncture in the new Malaysia that we all are attempting to build. Razali, given his background in multilateral and bilateral diplomacy, was a perfect fit for the task.
The current crop of Suhakam commissioners put Malaysia on the world’s human rights map.
This government may have instituted new procedures, including possibly vetting by the security and anti-corruption agencies before nominating someone. If that is the case, Razali should have been notified earlier – at least three months before the end of his tenure.
It does not reflect well on the government that these matters involving key functionaries are not being properly handled.
DATUK M. SANTHANANABAN