KUALA LUMPUR, June 13 — Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) urged the government to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
Alongside Malaysian civil society organisations (CSOs), it also recommended that the government ends “witch hunts” against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community here in a report called "State of Disruption: Assessing the Impact of Malaysia’s Covid-19 Laws on Civic Space".
“Participation of the vulnerable communities must be multifold and specifically in terms of formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
“Most of the policies formulated are elitist and by the elites in the society,” it said.
The report, collaboratively produced by Forum-Asia, Suaram and Pusat Komas. said post-pandemic recovery policies should include the vulnerable too.
Regressive laws, including the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA), Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) 2012, and Sedition Act 1948 must be repealed as well, it said.
In line with that, Malaysia should ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees to adhere to international refugee protection standards as well as refrain from inciting fear and hatred towards migrants and refugees, instead establishing a progressive society that does not exclude essential groups.
The role played by CSOs and human rights defenders must be recognised and there ought to be a Human Rights Defenders’ protection mechanism in place, it added.
It also called for workers’ rights to be protected by simplifying the process of unionisation.
Systemic issues highlighted by the pandemic such as poverty and health inequity must be addressed too, it said.
Organisations and members of the public must also be given an avenue through which they can express concerns and give feedback to their elected representatives, it added.
Other recommendations to the government include: promoting transparency and accountability in governance through a platform that MPs, CSOs and communities can use to communicate and address the concerns of contract doctors in the public healthcare system.
It also had recommendations for the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), such as to ensure stronger protection for human rights activists and CSOs and to submit the commission’s findings to Parliament for debate.
The report recommended that Suhakam improve the performance and impact of its work so that it can more effectively fulfil its mandate of protecting and promoting human rights too.
On the other hand, CSOs were called upon to ensure the representation of marginalised communities in advocacy and to watch closely for human rights abuses.
The universality and interconnectedness of all human rights must be emphasised while ensuring that discussions on how race, royalty, and religion affect perspectives and policies are continued, it added.
For the media, the report recommended it uphold media independence and refrain from being complicit in human rights abuses while recognising its role as the fourth estate in democracy.