KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 16 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) revealed today that the federal government has agreed to reconsider its budget for 2016, following its complaint that the drastically reduced sum would force it to operate on a deficit.
In a statement, Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam said the commitment was given by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low during a meeting.
“The commission appreciates the valuable commitment made by the Honourable Minister and the assurance that the commission’s budget will be reconsidered so as to place human rights on the government’s list of top priorities,” Hasmy said in thanking Low for considering Suhakam’s complaint.
“This is important amidst concerns being expressed, both at home and abroad, that human rights is not being given the priority it deserves,” he added.
Hasmy also noted that Suhakam is currently undergoing its re-accreditation process as a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) at the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions (ICC).
The ICC previously gave Suhakam an “A” status, he noted.
Hasmy had last week demanded an explanation from Putrajaya on its reasons for slashing its budget for 2016 by nearly 50 per cent from RM10,986,200 this year to RM5,509,400 for next year.
Although the commission acknowledges that the current economic downturn meant a reduction in available finances for the public sector, Hasmy said such a drastic cut could mean that Suhakam may not be able to carry out its statutory functions effectively.
He also noted today that Section 19(1) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 that requires the government to provide the commission with adequate funds annually to enable it to discharge its functions under the Act.
He went on to explain that demands on Suhakam’s resources have continued to grow in recent years and without sufficient finances, the commission will likely be in deficit by November 2016 in just meeting with its fixed overall costs and not taking into account its fixed expenses or expenses for its programmes.
“As such, the Commission hopes that Parliament can contribute to protecting the independence of the Commission by guaranteeing an adequate level of funding to the Commission as the lack of such funding erodes the effectiveness of the Commission and undermines the principles upon which National Human Rights Institutions are formed,” Hasmy added.
Suhakam was established as a national human rights institution by the Parliament to educate the public on human rights, attend to complaints and carry out inquiries among others.