KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — The government will table a special Act that will enable the children’s commission to function as an independent body.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department responsible for law and institutional reform Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said it is important that the children’s commission acts independently since the population of children in the country is close to 30 per cent of the total Malaysian population.

“That is why, for the children’s commission, the government will make available a special Act to allow the commission’s office independence to act as a watchdog for child-related issues in our country in all aspects, not only criminal law-related but also education, pre-school, local council, housing and other government agencies.

“Anything that involves children, the Madani government see that there is a need for a special law, which gives the commission permission and freedom to monitor, contribute suggestions and conduct evaluations in terms of assisting the government to bring more good to the children in the country,” Azalina told a press conference here in Parliament today.

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Present at the press conference was the newly appointed children’s commissioner Farah Nini Dusuki who said children should be placed in an ideal position so that their interests, wellbeing and rights are empowered.

“We don’t want reactive; we only act when things happen. We also want to be proactive and also to prevent issues, and to do that, we have to listen to children.

“Because we are a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child since 1995, and up until now, the four main principles not everyone knows.

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“The principle of the best interests of the child has to be of paramount consideration, non-discrimination, their right to life, right to protection and development have to be empowered and protected, and finally, the right to participation.

“It is not just in Malaysia, but in other Asian countries, the right to participation — we rarely listen to our children. So I hope the office of the commissioner will be the focal point for all these efforts especially. At the moment, it is not yet fully independent. It is mostly advocacy and as an oversight authority,” Farah said.

Farah’s appointment as the children’s commissioner to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) for a three-year term came into effect on March 8. She is a senior lecturer at Universiti Malaya’s law faculty.

When asked to give a date for the tabling of the Bill, Azalina said she was hopeful that it would happen this year.

“We hope that the next session, the new children’s commissioner and law department will sit down together to draft the Bill.

“The whole purpose of the Bill is to make the children’s commissioner a watchdog, and this is in relation to all the children and as you know that one of the biggest challenges is the issue between federal and state law, and also the element of different religions and different laws on the child itself,” she said.

She also expressed gratitude to Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat who had, on Tuesday at the launch of the Kota Baru High Court, made an announcement on the number of child sexual victims and offences, while mentioning that there is a need for more courts.

She also expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for an additional budget allocation for the children sexual court.

“My vision for children commission’s office is that every child in Malaysia knows that there is an office out there that can protect them in Malaysia.

“So I hope the children’s commission can also be creative in figuring out ways to communicate with children out there, so that they are able to know that there is a hotline or number they can call.

“On my part as the minister in charge of laws in reference to sexual offences against children, one of the greatest challenges is extraction of evidence when the child goes to court, the child drops himself or herself as a witness, and also the other challenge of families hiding the perpetrators for various reasons.

“We must create awareness that there are laws out there to protect them. That is basically the whole intention of having an independent children’s commission’s office. So that she (Farah) is able to work more aggressively to protect the children in Malaysia,” Azalina said.