The Home Ministry has banned the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs (Comango), which had presented its version of Malaysian human rights standards at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) last year.

In a statement today, the ministry said the Registrar of Societies has checked its records and found that the coalition is not registered under the Societies Act 1966.

“Every society that wants to carry out legal activities must be registered with the Registrar of Societies as stipulated in Section 7 of the Act,” it said.

“Any organisation that fails to comply with Section 7 can have action taken against it – including being declared illegal and against the law – under Section 41(1)(b) of the Act. Comango is (therefore) declared an illegal organisation.”

The ministry further remarked that majority of NGOs which form part of Comango are “not Islamic-based” and are not registered.

“There are 54 organisations which have combined under Comango and only 15 are registered with the ROS,” the statement added.

Influence of ‘hardcore elements’

In an immediate response, Bar Council Human Rights Committee co-chairperson Andrew Khoo – who works with Comango but is not a member – described the decision as “outrageous and unwarranted”.

He noted that the government has engaged with Comango throughout the UPR process since 2008.

“It (the government) was given a copy of Comango’s UPR submission in March 2012,” ” said Khoo.

“Nothing happened until hardline Muslim conservative organisations highlighted aspects of Comango’s submission, which they did not agree with, and demanded that action be taken against Comango.

“This action shows that the government is being dictated to by hardcore elements and is unable or unwilling to protect and defend moderate alternative voices, even if these are voices that it may not agree with.”

It was previously reported that several Muslim groups such as Perkasa and Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) were critical of Comango’s intention in submitting its UPR report due to its demands for religious freedom, including for apostasy, and the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Khoo added that the government’s move also shows there is no respect for the constitutional right to freedom of expression or freedom of association.

Both these rights are stipulated under Article 10 of the federal constitution. – Mkini