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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Suhakam must report to Parliament, not PM

By Jaynne Koh (freemalaysiatoday.com)

KUANTAN: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has been urged to exert its role in view of Malaysia’s dipping ratings on human rights policing in the country

Research for Social Advancement (Refsa)
, a political organization, noted that eight years after its establishment Suhakam’s credibility was questionable.

“It’s my opinion that Suhakam Act should be amended allowing it to report directly to the Parliament. As long as it’s answerable to the prime minister, there can be little action without fear, “ said Refsa researcher Faisal Mustaffa.

He said the last amendment, to the Suhakam Act, in 1989 failed to give sufficient authority to the commissioner.

He said Suhakam’s current Act restricts the development of human rights and allows the government to ignore recommendation from public inquiries and for the parliament to not debate its reports.

Although Suhakam was set up by the Parliament and designed to act independently, it was however financially dependant on the government. Its line up of Commissioners is appointed by the King but with the advice of the Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

Faisal said Suhakam should be given more powers and authority to act on certain matters.

"In particular, changes must be done on the issue of Election slots. During 12th general election participants from both sides of the divide agreed that there were lots of election slots which violated human rights, “ he told FMT.

This aside, there is also the ongoing calls for abolishment of emergency laws which had in recent times put Malaysia in bad light.

“Suhakam must stand above its political masters. It should view issues for its worth and not look at situations through the eyes of political parties and academicians.

He cited an example, at a recent forum, on the issue of wife abuse, where some Umno members were present..

"We believe the wife abuse is an issue, but Umno members present felt it was a domestic matter and Suhakam should not interfere. But these are also issues Suhakam should look into, “ he said.

It is a known fact that Suhakam has remained aloof on societal issues that intertwined human rights with religion, culture and daily life.

The primary reason is because it lacks the expertise to deal with these issues, unlike its peer commissions in Australia and Pakistan.

Faisal said it is now imperative that Suhakam, if it is to remain relevant, amend its laws and secure the resources of people capable of dealing with human rights issues and its implications of a multiracial society.


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