MEDIA STATEMENT: COMANGO attack of fellow human rights defenders smacks of diversion and desperation – MACSA

8 JUNE 2018

The Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the UPR Process (MACSA) is disappointed that the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (COMANGO) has chosen to frame its own UPR stakeholder report on Human Rights in Malaysia with unprovoked, malicious attacks on their fellow human rights defenders.

MACSA, like COMANGO, has in March this year submitted its own stakeholder report before the 3rd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Malaysia, which will be held on 8th November in Geneva, Switzerland. We are a coalition that champions human rights and fundamental liberties enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human rights 1948 (UDHR), the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam 1990 (CDHRI) and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration 2012 (AHRD) in accordance with the local narrative thereon, consistent with the provisions of our highest law, the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

Our past undertakings with respect to this, such as the researches undertaken by International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (WAFIQ) into incidences of sexual harassment against women at the workplace and the denial of the religious right of Muslim women to don the headscarf, Centre for Human Rights Research & Advocacy (CENTHRA)’s tireless advocacy of the Palestinian and Rohingya plight before various local and international fora, the commissioning of numerous articles on civil liberties by MACSA as a coalition as well as by many of our individual member CSOs, the human rights training sessions held by CENTHRA, the discussions and engagement held with other human rights stakeholder groups, to list some for example, speak for themselves. The diversified scope of activism is reflected through the work of Pusat Kecemerlangan Ummah (PACU) providing the underprivileged children in low cost housing communities free classes and Darul Insyirah is known for its advocacy for the rights of elderly to receive proper care as we embrace the ageing nation by 2030. CONCERN (Coalition of Sabah Islamic NGOs) meanwhile addresses the issues of stateless children in Sabah.

MACSA is also the leading coalition that spearhead the awareness of human rights and UPR process to the larger segment of the societies through engagement with Malay based media and dailies, including the appearance of our member organisations, Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ) and Persatuan Orang Cacat Penglihatan Islam Malaysia (PERTIS) and in live radio talk shows organised by IKIM to advocate various human rights, including for the rights of the disabled. With such a move, MACSA has provided a broader base for public engagement to ensure no human rights issue is left unadvocated.

WAFIQ, CENTHRA, PACU, Darul Insyirah, CONCERN, CLJ, and PERTIS are only part of the 49 odd and diverse yet fiercely independent non-governmental organisations that make up MACSA and our work in human rights areas have been acknowledged by the likes of the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) and Wisma Putra. MACSA and its members are also working with SUHAKAM on the proposed ratification of the Convention against Torture (CAT), another international human rights instrument beneficial for the realisation of civil liberties in Malaysia.

Yet, instead of welcoming us as fellow human rights defenders (HRDs), COMANGO has chosen to attack us by demeaning our contributions and advocacy. This they do by alleging without any evidence that we are linked to the previous government helmed by Barisan Nasional (BN) and defaming us by alleging the empty claim that we are in the habit of organising smear campaigns against them.

Such allegations certainly do not contain within them an ounce of fact and are rightly confined to the realm of fiction, but we understand why they have been made.

COMANGO as a so-called human rights coalition has clearly realised that its credibility and standing amongst the international community of HRDs is now virtually non-existent due to the clear association and even membership of their personalities, namely Maria Chin Abdullah of BERSIH 2.0 and Ambiga Sreenevasan of HAKAM with the current Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in their capacities as a Member of Parliament and member of the Committee on Institutional Reforms (CIR) respectively.

This effectively renders COMANGO a government affiliated NGO (GONGO). GONGOs are recognized by the UNHRC as unqualified and unable to present any credible independent analysis of a government’s performance in the realm of human rights.

The tactic of alluding to failures by the previous BN administration and connecting MACSA therewith cite alleged violations of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Yet COMANGO themselves willfully violate the declaration by alleging falsehoods and making baseless allegations against fellow HRDs.

For the benefit of COMANGO, we remind them that Article 1 of the Declaration states that everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.

Article 11(2) further states that Individuals, groups, institutions and non-governmental organizations have an important role to play and a   responsibility in safeguarding democracy, promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms and contributing to the promotion and advancement of democratic societies, institutions and processes. MACSA is such group, institution and non-governmental organization doing precisely this and is entitled to do so.

Lastly Article 10 thereof states that no one shall participate, by act or by failure to act where required, in violating human rights and fundamental freedoms and no one shall be subjected to punishment or adverse action of any kind for refusing to do so. By advocating that complaint mechanisms be created and employed against us, COMANGO is engaging in clear and willful destruction of the human rights they claim to uphold.

We in MACSA will ignore COMANGO’s allegations and call upon the Malaysian public as well as relevant authorities to do the same. This applies to assertions in their UPR stakeholder report as well as any further false allegations that have been made as well as likely will be made against us in the future. Such claims are without basis and are made only as a ploy to smokescreen COMANGO’s own shortcomings as a credible human rights coalition.

 

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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