Malaysia: NGOs outraged at ban on human rights coalition

The non-governmental organisations that make up the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (Comango), which was declared illegal by the Home Ministry today, are outraged at the ban as they say that they are recognised by the United Nations.

Comango member Sisters In Islam (SIS) said the coalition had submitted a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva according to the guidelines.

“And the UN recognises the role of civil society in highlighting issues that the people face,” SIS programme manager Suri Kempe said.

Suri said she was curious why Putrajaya had only targeted Comango as it was one of 28 coalitions of NGOs which submitted reports to the UN Human Rights Council.

“It is surprising that they only found Comango illegal.

Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng, too, said it was perplexing that a Malaysian body recognised by the UN was outlawed by its own government.

“We look at this as another attack on NGOs who bring up issues that are of concern to the public.

“Their intention is to supress the issues and voices of dissent against the government,” Yap claimed.

The ministry, in a statement today, said Comango is an illegal organisation as it was not registered, and some of its objectives were un-Islamic, citing one of its objectives to fight for the rights of LBGTIQ (lesbian, bisexual, gays, transgender, inter-sex and queer persons).

“Fighting for this particular objective deviates from the Islamic faith. Moreover, Comango is not registered under the Societies Act 1966,” the ministry said.

“There are a total of 54 non-governmental organisations under Comango. But out of the 54, only 15 NGOs are registered under the Societies Act 1966.”

The ministry said that many of the NGOs under the Comango coalition were non-Islamic and unregistered.

However, Suri rebutted the ministry's statement, saying the Court had decided last year that a coalition of NGOs need not be registered.

“As for the claim that we deviate from Islamic faith, we advocate that everyone has a right to be free from violence regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure that everyone is protected.

“So are they saying that Islam encourages violence against people with different preferences? Is that what they are trying to portray?” she asked.

Bar Council Human Rights Committee co-chairperson Andrew Khoo was also quoted as saying that the ban was “outrageous and unwarranted”, adding that Putrajaya had been in contact with the coalition since 2008.

“The government was given a copy of Comango’s UPR submission in March 2012,” he was quoted as saying by MalaysiaKini.

“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.”

Meanwhile, DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang called the Comango ban “deplorable and shocking” through his Twitter account today.

Former deputy higher education minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, also through his Twitter account, said although he did not agree with some of Comango's demands, it did not have to be declared illegal. – January 8, 2014.