Unity gov’t has failed to realise its pledges of human rights reforms

IN conjunction with Human Rights Day which falls on today (Dec 10), the Global Human Rights Foundation (GHRF) wishes to point out that many promises of “reformation” made during the 15th General Election (GE15) campaign trails have remained a political speech.

Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has recently announced that a Bumiputera economic congress would be held in January 2024 to establish a new direction and approach for a Bumiputera agenda empowerment.

This has raised the question if Anwar should be a PM of a multi-racial, multi-religious nation? Shouldn’t the economic improvement be beneficial for all Malaysians without being bias?

During his GE15 campaign, Anwar claimed that the Indians and Orang Asli are among the country’s poorest. Hence, shouldn’t he be talking about an economic congress for all Malaysians instead?

Statistics reveal that the majority of non-Muslims voted and supported the Anwar-led Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition hoping for a meaningful reformation of fundamental rights as well as economy, education, health and social welfare development.

However, till today, Malaysians are still fighting an unresolved battle against racism, fanaticism, extremism, discriminations and double standard policies targeting the minorities in this nation.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)

Examples aplenty

Take for instance the more recent incidents that are related to religious persecution:

Incident #1

At the National Tamil Language Carnival on Nov 23, participants were barred from reciting Tamil hymns to mark the start of the programme. Indian participants were not allowed to sing Kadavul Valthu (Praises to God) and Tamil Valthu (Praises to the Tamil Language) during the event which was held in a hotel in Kepala Batas.

As the carnival was a Tamil programme that was organised to celebrate the advent and flourishing of the Tamil language over generations, restricting the two Tamil hymns was a gross and brazen infringement of participants’ rights.

Incident #2

The refusal by TV Sarawak and the state’s UNIFOR (Unit for Other Religions in Premier Department) to play O Holy Night heralding the birth of Jesus Christ in a Christmas programme on Dec 3 at Padang Merdeka in Kuching has shocked many non-Muslims (and even right-minded moderate Muslims) nationwide.

It seems that this utterly ludicrous and discriminating rejection was due to religious elements as well as protocol by the Film Censorship Board. The matter was raised vigorously by the Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) and only get resolved after the Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg intervened by ordering the hymn to be allowed.

Incident #3

The controversial dismissal of a non-Malay/non-Muslim restaurant worker in Bukit Bintang in the Federal capital simply because he wore a chain with a small crucifix pendant – an artifact that is commonly worn by Christians.

Incident #4

Cases related to unilateral, unethical and unlawful religious conversions can be heard almost every month, endlessly year after year. This has caused family members, spouses and children to become victims as many families are broken up in the process. Some of these cases are still actively on-going in courts waiting indefinitely for a just, fair closure.


Toothless SUHAKAM

The time for human rights to anchor is now or never. For the past three years, GHRF has been voicing out matters concerning the violation of human rights especially those concerning non-Muslims and the minorities in this nation.

Police reports and memorandums were handed over to the relevant ministries and authorities for redress but over hopes and efforts have been in vain.

NGOs (non-governmental organisation) and human rights activists are condemned and criticised – and even branded as a security threat by politicians – whenever matters of public concern are raised on violation of rights and injustices.

In this regard, GHRF wishes to register its greatest disappointment towards the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM). Being a legitimate body established under the Malaysian Parliament in 1999, SUHAKAM has painfully failed to address all the critical issues pertaining to human rights and violations on the minorities.

Public opinion holds SUHAKAM as totally inefficient and inactive in speaking up against the injustice and double standard policies impacting non-Malays/non-Muslims or minorities in the country. Since its establishment in April 2000, it has been merely a puppet to the government given the fact that it has politically-appointed representatives on board.

Combating inflammatory speeches

Today, NGOs and netizens are deeply concerned and increasingly disturbed over the level of racial and religious intolerance which is morphing into a threat to national unity and harmony.

GHRF currently has three active cases pending in the courts regarding inflammatory speeches and postings in the public domain that insult and deride non-Islamic religions in the country

It is a widely held perception that racial divisions within the Malaysian society is drifting further and further at a fast pace and cannot continue to be ignored if we regard patriotism as a vital ingredient for national peace and progress.

GHRF currently has three active cases pending in the courts regarding inflammatory speeches and postings in the public domain that insult and deride non-Islamic religions in the country.

It has always been either the NGOs or the public who have to individually or privately seek justice as the law enforcement agencies and authorities who are supposed to act on such matter without prejudice or bias seem to possess double standards.

GHRF has previously called on the Malaysian government to table the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill in Parliament to ensure that those making statements deemed as hate speech directed at a particular race or religion be prosecuted for their action.

GHRF has also requested for the government to put in place an independent body to oversee conversions into Islam as well as for strict laws and guidelines to be drafted and enforced to avoid such conversions being done covertly, coercively and in a partial manner by favouring the converted against the unconverted.

GHRF’s ultimate objective is to uphold the Federal Constitution as well as the principles of Rukun Negara, Parliamentary Democracy, rule of law and equality without discrimination or hints of apartheid.

Towards this end, GHRF deems that enforcing and abiding by the 30 Basic Human Rights List as enshrined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is non-negotiable.  – Dec 10, 2023


S. Shashi Kumar is president of the Global Human Rights Federation (GHRF).

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Main pic credit: OeAD

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