NGOs to Putrajaya: Ratify human rights treaties

Denison noted that pro-Bumiputera affirmative action is still ongoing as the economic targets for the Malays and other Bumiputeras have yet to be reached. — Picrture by Choo Choy May
Denison noted that pro-Bumiputera affirmative action is still ongoing as the economic targets for the Malays and other Bumiputeras have yet to be reached. — Picrture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 9 — Non-profit groups told the Najib administration today to ratify six international human rights treaties, including on racial discrimination, as Malaysia remains in the bottom 10 countries in the United Nations (UN) on upholding such agreements.

Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, secretary-general of human rights watchdog Proham, stressed that Article 153 of the Federal Constitution on the special position of the Bumiputeras is not a hindrance in ratifying the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

“In ICERD, affirmative action has to be time-bound, specific and publicly declared,” Denison told reporters after a human rights discussion organised by Proham and non-governmental organisation, Global Movement of Moderates (GMM), here today.

Denison noted that pro-Bumiputera affirmative action is still ongoing as the economic targets for the Malays and other Bumiputeras have yet to be reached.

“No one said, ‘scrap 153’. We are only talking about the abuses of 153,” said Denison.

He also pointed out that other Muslim nations have already ratified ICERD.

“We are among the 16 countries which haven’t ratified it. We are saying we’re the best model of racial harmony, but we’re not ratifying it. You cannot say it’s against Islam. OIC countries are all ratifying it,” said Denison, referring to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Saifuddin urged Putrajaya to create a national human rights action plan.
Saifuddin urged Putrajaya to create a national human rights action plan.

GMM chief Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said at the same press conference that the five other UN treaties that Malaysia needs to ratify are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

“It’s a symbolic effort by the government. By not ratifying, it puts Malaysia in the bottom 10 countries in the UN. We are number 187 out of 195. Most of other countries have ratified four or more. Even in the OIC, we are one of the last,” said Saifuddin.

Malaysia has only ratified three UN treaties so far: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The former Umno supreme council member also urged Putrajaya to create a national human rights action plan, as well as to debate the annual reports of Malaysia’s human rights commission, Suhakam, in Parliament.

“Form a parliamentary select committee on human rights,” Saifuddin added.

“Make amendments to the Suhakam Act to allow Suhakam to have powers of investigation and enforcement. Establish a human rights court, a law reform commission, policy reforms. Have human rights education for all stakeholders,” he said.

Denison said that Malaysia should be able to ratify the six international human rights treaties before the next UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2018 and stressed that human rights are not the antithesis of Islamic values.

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