Does Malaysia deserve to sit on the Human Rights Council?

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When Malaysia’s human rights shortcomings are so blatant and apparent, how can the country in all honesty seek membership on the United Nations Human Rights Council, wonders P Ramakrishnan.


Malaysia is seeking to secure a seat on the Human Rights Council for the second time. In wanting to do so, it is seeking endorsements from all and sundry. The question arises whether it deserves to sit on the Council.

It would be natural to study Malaysia’s record on human rights. Has Malaysia been observing and promoting the values and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Has it ratified the various Conventions that have been adopted by the UN, a necessary prerequisite as a member of the United Nations?

Some of the laws in our statute books, without doubt, run foul of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Chief among this is the Internal Security Act, which condemns individuals without proffering a charge against them; without giving them natural justice to defend themselves. Yet without a proven guilty court decision, they can be detained for two years, with the option to renew their detention every two years, indefinitely.

There are also similar oppressive laws that take the form of the ISA and rob individuals of their basic freedom and their human rights. The Emergency Ordinance, the Official Secrets Act, the Publishing and Printing Presses Act and the Universities and University Colleges Act – which are all devised to deny and deprive basic human rights which are fundamental to every human being – continue to exist to this day.

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Another question that needs to be asked is: Do you play fair and are you just?

When it comes to elections do you give any time at all to the Opposition to address the voters and communicate their policies and aspirations for the nation? When you control radio, television and the print media and exercise absolute authority which makes a mockery of free and fair elections, how can you seek to sit on the Human Rights Council?

When you allocate a million dollars to the elected representatives from the Barisan Nasional for minor projects in their constituencies and deny the same to Opposition representatives even though the money comes from public coffers, how can you pretend to be democratic and a respecter of human rights?

When bills are not made public well in advance before debating them in Parliament, when you exclude public debate and discussion and input which is essential to a meaningful democracy, what human rights do you represent?

When the Athi Nahappan Commission made recommendations on the operations of local councils, you completely ignored its recommendation that local elections should be carried out. How can you then seek a place on the Human Rights Council? You have thus denied the rights of Malaysians to elect their own councillors. You have, in a way, subverted the rights of your own citizens.

When your human rights shortcomings are so blatant and apparent, thus rendering you unfit to champion human rights in an honourable and credible way, how can you in all honesty seek membership on the Council? What do ordinary Malaysians think?

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P Ramakrishnan is president of Aliran

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