Questions have arisen over the status of the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the Universal Periodic Review Process (Comango) following an amendment apparently made to an ealier statement by the Home Ministry's secretary-general Datuk Mohamad Khalid Shariff.
The coalition said it is a legal organisation based on the amendment which had apparently omitted a line in Mohamad Khalid's earlier statement which declared the coalition of rights groups as “illegal”.
“Upon checking the website of the Ministry of Home Affairs, it is clear that the last sentence ‘Comango dengan itu merupakan sebuah pertubuhan haram’ has been deleted,” the coalition said in a statement.
On January 8, the ministry had issued a statement that Comango was illegal since not all of the groups in the coalition are registered with the Registrar of Societies (ROS) and that it promotes sexual rights that is against Islamic beliefs.
“Actions can be taken against any group which fails to fulfil the needs of Section 7, as an unregistered and illegal organisation under Section 41(1) (b). Therefore, Comango is an illegal organisation,” the earlier statement by the Home Ministry had said.
Comango said that while it was “pleased” that the ministry had "revised" its stance, it is however concerned that the ministry had merely deleted the last line in its statement rather than issue a new statement.
“We are disappointed that this change of stance was not made known to the media at all. This is in stark contrast to their action which accompanied the issuance of their original media statement on January 8 in declaring Comango 'illegal' where it was sent to the media for their immediate action and publication,” said the coalition.
Comango has been facing backlash from Muslim groups and the authorities since it came out with its report to the United Nations Human Rights Council that highlighted human rights abuses in the country last year.
Critics have used Comango’s recommendation that the government protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups as an excuse to diminish the coalition’s reputation.
After the ministry issued its statement last month, various groups had come out in defence of Comango and criticised the government’s move to clamp down on a rights coalition.
Meanwhile, Comango had asked that Putrajaya continues to engage the coalition as it did for the past several years. It also said last month that Putrajaya had to seriously address human rights abuse in Malaysia before the government meets the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March.