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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 9 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has urged the government to review the Societies Act, after opposition parties Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) and Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) had their registration applications denied by the Registrar of Societies (RoS).
Suhakam said there is a need to review the Act as it contains provisions which may be deemed as inconsistent with the principles of human rights, in particular the right to freedom of association.
“Suhakam stresses that the freedom of association is a fundamental liberty guaranteed to every citizen under Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution and the same rights enjoyed under Article 20(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“In line with the Federal Constitution and the spirit of democracy, Suhakam calls upon the government to review the Societies Act and stands ready to assist the government on this matter,” it said in a statement here.
Expressing concerns over the rejections faced by Pejuang and Muda, Suhakam said it had in the past made recommendations on reforms to be made to the Societies Act including the proportionate exercise of the powers by the RoS for the purpose of the said Act.
“It also include reviews on the absolute discretion of the minister to declare a society unlawful, the provision of a specific timeframe for the RoS’ decision on a registration application and communication to the applicant on the decision, and the obligation for RoS to furnish reasons for declining or not responding to an application for registration of associations,” it added.
The RoS is a statutory body under the purview of the Home Ministry.
Suhakam also proposed for the registration of societies including political parties be administered by an independent entity instead of a government department.
“This would further guarantee the impartiality and neutrality in the administration of matters relating to the registration of societies,” it said, adding that it hoped the RoS carried out its functions and duties in a fair-minded and human rights compliant approach at the same time.
Both Pejuang and Muda announced that their registration bid had been rejected last week, alleging political reasons.
The rejections were merely sent through emails, with no reason given whatsoever for the decisions.
Following the rejection. Pejuang has since withdrawn its legal action against the RoS for the delay in deciding on the party’s registration status.