KUALA LUMPUR, July 24 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia issued a statement today condemning the racist and sexist remarks made by Parliamentarians, following the verbal mudslinging between the government and Opposition MPs that took place nearly two weeks ago.
Suhakam said the privileges accorded to elected representatives do not excuse them from making racial, sexist or offensive slurs, behaviour it deemed unbecoming of representatives elected by the people.
“Suhakam expresses its’ abhorrence over the racist, sexist and other offensive remarks made by Parliamentarians in the House. The recent racial slurs uttered by a Parliamentarian is viewed by Suhakam as shameful and unacceptable behaviour by elected representatives,” it’s statement read.
“Even though freedom of speech is a human right, it comes with responsibility and one does not abuse this right by using it to deride, mentally harm and, or to create public disorder,” the commission added.
“Any remark that strips a person of his human dignity is a clear violation of his fundamental rights. Parliamentarians should not be using their immunity, as a licence to hurl racist, sexist and other offensive remarks in the respected House.”
A government lawmaker sparked public uproar last week when he was said to have used terms like “dark” and had reportedly told his ethnic Indian Opposition counterpart to “pakai bedak (put on powder)”, remarks deemed racist and offensive.
Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, MP for Baling, eventually apologised after being reprimanded by the Lower House Speaker, Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun.
In a ruling made a day after, Azhar threatened to act against any MPs who make any remarks deemed seditious, racist, sexist or offensive, although critics had questioned the delayed criticism.
Suhakam, however, said it welcomed the position taken by the newly appointed Dewan Rakyat Speaker.
“Suhakam welcomes the position taken by the newly appointed Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun that stern action will be taken if seditious, racist and, or sexist remarks are uttered in the Dewan Rakyat, notwithstanding that it was a day later,” it said.
The commission had also called for immediate steps to be taken by the House Speaker to reprimand any members of the lower house found to have made such remarks.
But it said it would be much better if Parliamentarians themselves are to be conscious of their own conduct and mannerisms befitting of the House.
“It would be more advantageous to fully utilise the limited time available to engage in serious and healthy debates that are in the interest of the people and the nation, instead of descending into personal negative attacks,” it said.