Suhakam risks downgrade after Putrajaya shuns proposals to strengthen it

Source: The Malaysian Insider

Suhakam vice-chairman Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee says she did not receive a favourable response in her meeting with the Attorney-General, police and PM’s Department legal representative over the expansion of the human rights commission’s role. – The Malaysian Insider pic, August 24, 2015.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia’s (Suhakam) attempt to give itself more bite has hit a roadblock, with Putrajaya reacting “very unfavourably” to its proposals to amend the law that governed it.

This could see Suhakam risk a potential downgrade of its international accreditation, its vice-chairman Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee said today.

Khaw said Suhakam had submitted nine recommendations to Putrajaya to strengthen the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act which was last amended in 2009.

“We had a meeting earlier this month with the Attorney-General, police and the prime minister’s department legal affairs division director-general and the response from the agencies were not very favourable.

“They feel the current act is sufficient for the commission to carry out our mandate effectively.  Basically, I think the government feels there is no need for the act to be amended,” she told reporters at a press conference on the human rights body’s activities.

Khaw warned that the delay might cause the commission’s A status to be downgraded.

An A status allows accredited human rights institutions to speak at international meetings.

Apart from embarrassment and shame, Khaw said a downgrade meant that it will lose its speaking rights as well as failure to fulfil all requirements under the Paris principles, a set of international standards which frame and guide the work of national human rights institutions.

Suhakam’s reaccreditation exercise is up for review this November.

Among the nine proposals are empowering Parliament to appoint Suhakam’s commissioner, allowing it to visit detention centres without seeking authorisation from the relevant authorities, seeking powers to undertake mediation and allowing the commission to appear as friends of the court in human rights related cases.

However, according to Khaw, Putrajaya is only receptive towards one of its recommendations: dropping commissioners who missed meetings three times in a row.

Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam said the commission had been trying to upgrade and empower itself through the proposed changes to the act to make “our teeth grow”.

“I was pretty disappointed that the requests by Suhakam over the years have not been heeded,” he said.

He also expressed disappointment over the seemingly poor understanding of human rights in the country, especially by detractors who thought they was a Western imposition.

“There is a poor perception of human rights in the country. Some don’t understand and think it is a Western imposition, pushing forward the Western agenda, which is not true at all.

“There should be greater engagement and understanding of human rights so that as a nation, we move towards the same direction,” he said. – August 24, 2015.


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