The Centre For Human Rights Research & Advocacy (Centhra) has urged new Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chairman Professor Datuk Rahmat Mohamad to address the issue of deaths in police custody as his main priority.
Centhra chairman and founder Azril Mohd Amin said Centhra is pleased with the direction Suhakam will be taking with the appointment of Dr Rahmat, formerly Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) deputy vice-chancellor and Law Faculty dean.
"A respected and distinguished legal mind, he possesses a deep understanding of Malaysian society, culture and jurisprudence.
"Centhra has long advocated for an authentically Malaysian framework for human rights, informed and guided by our beliefs, traditions and history with less reliance upon peculiarly Western conceptions," he said.
Moving forward, Azril said Suhakam faces a string of genuinely urgent issues, many of which have been sidelined and overlooked in the past due to overemphasis on matters deemed important to the international human rights community.
"The greatest priority by far is to address the disgraceful issue of deaths in police custody. No nation can tolerate a situation in which arrest for any crime may result in untried suspects losing their lives.
"Suhakam must immediately direct its attention towards ensuring that this horrific trend comes to an end," Azril said.
Suhakam must also develop a plan that would enable universal education for all children in Malaysia, including stateless children and the children of refugees.
Denying any children the right to education imposes a bleak future upon the innocent without cause and deprives society of the promise of their potential, he said.
Azril also said the rights of tahfiz (religious school) students must also be upheld and their education must not be belittled as the soul of our nation is nourished in their classrooms and this cannot be devalued.
"We hope the new direction of Suhakam, its realignment with the native values and culture of Malaysia and the region will also lead to greater cooperation and collaboration with its counterpart organisations across Asean and the Organisation of the Islamic Community (OIC).
"Developing a regionally unified approach to human rights and one which resonates with the broader Muslim world constitutes a tremendous step forward for the cultural sovereignty and welfare of our nation," he said.
He added that human rights had too often been used as a cover for foreign interference in the legislative agendas of Muslim countries, Asean members and across the Global South.
"Rooting our approaches in our own cultures, values and understanding of our societies, particularly if we work in solidarity across borders, will fortify our countries against this sort of manipulation and coercion."
"Congratulations to Professor Datuk Rahmat Mohamad on his appointment. We look forward to what we can accomplish in the future together," he said.
Azril Mohd Amin
Centhra founder and chairman