MEDIA STATEMENT : Constructive engagement with independent members of civil society the way forward – MACSA

25 MAY 2018

It has been two weeks since the results of the watershed May 9th general election has been made known to us and Malaysians of all walks of life are still getting adjusted to life under the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government led by our new Prime Minister, YAB Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Many have thus focused on the promises of this new administration contained in their Buku Harapan manifesto, in particular with respect to those touching upon institutional reforms as well as those affecting fundamental liberties.

With regard to those, the Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the UPR Process (MACSA) takes this opportunity to remind the new administration in no uncertain terms that for any meaningful realisation of institutional reforms and enhancement of rights to take place, it is essential that the new government work with independent, neutral, objective and committed human rights defenders from across the political, economic and social strata.

In this regard, while we take notice of the work of other collectives such as the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (COMANGO) and Bersih in their commitment to human rights and thank them for their tireless efforts in raising the bar where civil liberties are concerned, we believe that extra vigilance is required of other human rights NGOs in light of these collectives’ de facto leaders, namely Maria Chin Abdullah and Ambiga Sreenevasan now essentially forming part of the ruling government of the day in their capacities as an MP and member of the Committee on Institutional Reforms respectively.

In view of the above, naturally other civil society organisations who are equally committed to the call for better human rights must step in and assume the role as vigilant vanguards for such rights and reforms on behalf of the rakyat. In this instance, few are better equipped or up for the task than MACSA. We are absolutely dedicated to institutional reforms and stand ready to work with the new PH government in its stated human rights commitments contained in its manifesto, in particular on the reformation of certain laws and the strengthening of free speech and greater personal freedom for all citizens. These improvements must be accomplished without compromising the Constitutional provisions.

We share with the new administration the desire for realisation of lofty ideals for better governance and due regard for the rights of all citizens for all without distinction as stipulated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam 1990 and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration 2012 respectively is shared provided always that the same are in tandem with our Federal Constitution. Further, we possess vast experience and a great deal of expertise in the discharge of this monumental undertaking, having engaged extensively with various stakeholders within society and having worked tirelessly in defending our own local Malaysian narrative on fundamental liberties before various international human rights bodies.

The results of our research into issues affecting sexual harassment at the workplace, the ability of Muslim women to wear headscarves and the problems faced by Rohingya refugees in Malaysia and our advocacy of their cause before humanitarian tribunals of international standing, are all but a few of our accomplishments which speak for themselves.

We welcome the call for written representations made by the Institutional Reform Committee inviting all members of public to inform it of institutions which have ineffective decision-making processes or inadequate redress mechanisms. We believe this will effectively galvanise our institutions into better protection of human rights in Malaysia and hope this avenue is fully utilised to provide a wholesome and balanced overview of our current state of affairs.

We are also in complete agreement with the Prime Minister in his amanat, delivered a day before the resounding win of PH at the recently concluded national polls that while human rights must be upheld, this cannot be too liberal to the extent that there are no limits and all desires that go overboard must be curtailed.

Hence while noting that there is no single minister charged with the responsibility for human rights matters in the recently unveiled cabinet, we in MACSA beseech the PM to appoint such a suitable candidate to hold the post to oversee the administration of justice and strengthening of human rights in accordance with values shared by all Malaysians taking into account the needs of our native Bumiputera majority population without compromising the legitimate interests of our minorities. Such a ministry could be modelled on the existing Ministry of Law and Human Rights of the Republic of Indonesia, for example.

We urge the government to abide by its stated commitment to institutional reforms and the strengthening of all rights whether political, economic and social within Malaysia with reference to our Constitution as the ultimate framework in which the same can be realised and accordingly, invite the administration to engage constructively with us in MACSA and other civil society organisations towards this. By working together, the cause for better rights and governance will enter a new phase with greater traction and momentum than ever before resulting in the new and better Malaysia desired by all.

 

JOINT STATEMENT BY:

Azril Mohd Amin, Chief Executive, CENTHRA and Chairperson, MACSA or the Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process.

 Associate Professor Dr. Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, President of The International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education WAFIQ) and Co-Chairperson, MACSA.

 The Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process (MACSA) is a coalition of civil society organisations with the specific aim and object to look into, as well as advocate, human rights issues in Malaysia for the UPR Process.

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