Malaysia: UN human rights panel will also REVIEW how M’sia handles RELIGIOUS issues

PETALING JAYA – The many unresolved religious freedom issues in Malaysia may be raised during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of human rights in Geneva on Oct 24.

Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria told theSun the lack of a strong culture for human rights compliance especially from federal agencies and the non- ratification of core human rights conventions may also be on the agenda.

“Since 2008 we have a very strong civil society and urban middle class which is very aware of human rights concerns but there seems to be (resistance) from those in authority,” he said.

Denison said Malaysia must ratify several core human rights convention such as civil and political rights; economic social and cultural rights, and elimination of racial discrimination.

He said the government must set aside time to debate the Suhakam report in Parliament besides establishing a national human rights action plan.

“Strengthen Suhakam Act to make it mandatory for agencies to comply with their recommendations, findings or judgments,” said Denison.

He was commenting on the UPR mechanism established by the United Nations HRC in 2007, with the aim of improving the human rights situation on the ground in each of the 193 UN member states.

Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) advocacy officer Yu Ren Chung, meanwhile, said the government has a long way to go on gender equality matters, but noted that some progress has been made in terms of human rights.

The improvements include the amendment last year to the Domestic Violence Act “which is seen quite positively”.

Yu however noted that enforcement on the ground has been poor.

Commenting on the matter, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam said the amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act (PCA) passed in the Dewan Rakyat last week and contentious issues such as freedom of expression and association are also likely to be raised in the UPR.

Hasmy said Malaysia’s low ratification rate of international core human rights instruments may also be raised at the meeting.

He said the PCA includes provisions that are retrogressive in nature and inconsistent with fundamental human rights principle.

“The government should ensure that any legislative reform it wishes to undertake in the interest of national security and public safety must not include provisions that undermine the fundamental human rights of the people, such as detention without trials.”