Malaysia: NGOs disappointed with vague Govt statement at UPR

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government’s statement regarding Malaysia’s current state of human rights at the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva was criticised as being too vague by a grouping of local non-governmental organisations (NGO).

Members of the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (Comango) expressed their shock at the Government’s statement at the UPR.

“I was very disappointed with the response from the Government who have actually generalised their response and was not specific at all,” said Irene Fernandez, director and co-founder of the non-governmental organisation Tenaganita.

“They talk about the Employment Act, for example, and how it treats migrants equally, but it does not say that migrant workers do not have the right to seek redress or the right to work and stay while seeking it,” said Fernandez.

“What they are telling are half-truths and therefore creating a picture that protection of rights exists, but it doesn’t,” she added.

On indigenous people rights, representatives from both the Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli and Sarawak state government, claimed that they were taking care of indigenous peoples in that their development plans would bring greater good to the community and country as a whole.

However, Mark Bujang from Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) stated that; “The principles of free, prior and informed consent under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is often not complied with when implementing development programs”.

“If all was well with indigenous peoples, especially in Sarawak, why were Orang Asal affected by the Bakun and Murum dam projects protesting?” questioned Bujang.

“There were lots of lies from the Government,” said Nalini Elumalai executive director of Suaram.

“There was no consultation with the indigenous people at all. In fact they were forcibly removed. So when they say that they had a consultation, it’s a lie,” said Nalini.

Suriani Kempe from Sisters In Islam said that the statement given by the Jakim representative was inaccurate.

“When he said that women are not discriminated against, that is not true at all. It’s a blatant lie,” said Suriani.

Suriani lists how women do not have equal rights to their children, they experience longer delays when initiating divorce, Muslim women don’t inherit same amount as their male counterparts, and girls can be married off at a younger age in comparison to boys.

“This not to say that Islam discriminates, but the way Islam is administered in this country clearly discriminates against women,” she said.

Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, chairman of the human rights commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), said in a statement that they also hoped for a more in-depth discussion of the human rights situation in Malaysia.

“A more focused and in-depth deliberation of the human rights situation in the country would have been more beneficial to Malaysia,” he said.

Suhakam also hopes that Malaysia would undertake measures to fulfill its commitments to further improve the human rights situation in the country in the coming four and a half years before the next review cycle.

“It (UPR) is a process to improve and it’s a reflection on the government itself on an international platform, so we hope that the government will play its role and that it would implement all the recommendations that has been put forward to them,” said Nalini.