Wednesday, December 10, 2014

World watching Malaysia on human rights, Sedition Act, UN rep says

BY SHERIDAN MAHAVERA

UN resident coordinator in Malaysia Michelle Gyles-McDonnough says the need for accountability rises as Putrajaya assumes its seat on the Security Council and take up leadership position in the region. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, December 10, 2014.

UN resident coordinator in Malaysia Michelle Gyles-McDonnough says the need for accountability rises as Putrajaya assumes its seat on the Security Council and take up leadership position in the region. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, December 10, 2014.
As Malaysia takes up top leadership posts in the region and at the United Nations next year, there will be greater scrutiny of its human rights record and commitment to moderation at home.
Experts at a forum on Malaysia’s seat at the Security Council (UNSC) said that the Najib administration can no longer speak of human rights and moderation on the world stage and do the opposite at home.
In order to show real leadership, the Malaysian government must also ratify key UN conventions on human rights such as on preventing torture and giving recognition to political and economic rights.
“When you are at the world and regional stage, the need for accountability rises.
“These privileges come with responsibility and greater accountability," said UN resident coordinator in Malaysia Michelle Gyles-McDonnough.
There was already attention on why Malaysia had not adopted more of the nine core UN human rights conventions, she said.
To date, Malaysia has only signed three of the nine instruments. Among those it is not a party to are the conventions on civil and political rights, refugees, elimination of racial discrimination, against torture and on the rights of migrant workers.
“These are not hard to do. They are low-hanging fruit. We hope that membership on the Security Council will provide more impetus for Malaysia to move forward in this area.”
Gyles-McDonnough also said that the UN was watching closely how the Najib administration plans to fortify the Sedition Act as it is concerned that it can be used to limit freedom of expression.
“We hope that if the Act is to remain, it can be brought in line with international standards,” she said.
The forum last night was held in conjunction with Human Rights Day today and discussed the impact and expectations of Malaysia as it assumes one of 10 non-permanent seats on the UNSC.
The forum also comes at a time where human rights and civil society groups are decrying the Najib administration’s decision to keep the controversial 1948 Sedition Act after promising two years ago to repeal it.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had announced last month that the Act would be strengthened.
In its 2014 report launched yesterday, human rights group Suaram said that human rights under Najib had hit a new low, and gave particular mention to eroding freedom of legitimate dissent with 44 people being investigated under the Sedition Act, and an increase in hate speech and violence.
Critics add that Najib is fond of talking up Malaysia’s image as a moderate Muslim country at the world stage and he is known for pushing for an agenda of moderation.
Yet, at home, his administration has been accused of doing nothing to stem Malay supremacist and conservative Muslim groups who have incited racial and religious tension.
This is while dozens of activists, politicians, lawyers and lecturers have been investigated under the act for reasons that include giving legal opinions and questioning decisions by the Malay rulers or national budget allocations.
The forum was organised by Proham, a human rights group made up of former Malaysian Human Rights Commission members.
Also present were Proham chairman Datuk Khutubul Zaman Bukhari, Global Movement of Moderates chairman Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Proham secretary Datuk Denison Jayasooria.
Former Bar Council chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said Malaysia had to clean up its act at home once it assumes the UNSC seat.
“I am proud that Malaysia is sitting on the security council. But it's not enough just to sit up there and tell others to behave. You have to behave at home.
“Also do not get sensitive when others criticise you. You have to accept it,” said Ambiga.
On a related subject, Gyles-McDonnough said that Malaysia’s policies in the 11th Malaysia Plan must take a human rights-centred approach if the country wanted to truly achieve developed nation status by 2020.
She said that advanced middle income countries reached developed status by infusing their policies with human rights principles.
“Malaysia is on the last leg of its journey to developed status. You cannot do the last leg without human rights.” – December 10, 2014.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/world-watching-malaysia-on-human-rights-sedition-act-un-rep-says#sthash.lsSc6Qhy.dpuf

No comments: