KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 ― The government could table the National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission Bill this year to address race and inter-religious problems in the country, a source said.
The government source told Malay Mail the government has been engaging with intergovernmental agencies and preparing a Cabinet memorandum that may be tabled in the second half.
He said that the new commission will be set up differently from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) in that it will have the power to mediate disputes of a racial or religious nature.
“Its mechanism is different from Suhakam because we try to add mediation in our proposed commission.
“Whoever felt they have been hurt feeling can complain and the commission can call them both and mediate,” said the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
In April last year, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department P. Waytha Moorthy said the government was considering a National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission after the Cabinet decided not to table the Racial and Religious Hate Crime Bill and the National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill due to overlaps.
The source said the commission will handle complaints that fall short of crimes and defamation.
“If it is in criminal nature, they can refer to the police and public prosecutor for actions to be taken.
“Setting up of the commission cannot solve the issue, but it is a practical solution now. For me it is important to educate Malaysian on race and religious issues,” said the source.
Separately, the Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) coalition said it was also contributing to the Bill.
GBM programme consultant Eugene Yapp said its 24 NGOs has discussed with others on making the commission a reality.
“It’s been 10 months or so since civil society heard about the National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission Bill.
“But civil society feel that this idea of reconciliation commission is an important mechanism to help mediate inter religious and ethnic conflicts and tensions that will affect the stability (in the country),” he said.
Yapp said the commission could help promote interreligious and interracial harmony.
He cited the Taman Medan church controversy in 2015 as an example of where the commission would have been useful.
“I think the Commission would call both parties to mediate and help find an amicable as well as a win-win situation for both if it was there that time,” he said.
Yapp declined to reveal the discussions his NGO has had with various stakeholders, saying they are currently still working on the content.
“Our hope to see the commission Bill materialise and actualised,” he said.
Racial and religious tension has been a sporadic but persistent issue in Malaysia.