Monday, September 08, 2008

NGOs submit report to UN on human rights here

NGOs submit report to UN on human rights here
By SHAHANAAZ HABIB


KUALA LUMPUR: A coalition of 56 NGOs calling itself Comango has submitted a 10-page report to the United Nations High Commissioners for Human Rights in Geneva saying that after 51 years of independence, human rights in Malaysia remains a big concern.

They said there was still politicising of race and religion, racial discrimination, violations of freedom of religion, denial of sexual rights and more sophisticated methods being used to stop freedom of assembly.

They also expressed concern over the privatisation of the healthcare system, the rising violence and abuse against women and children and detention without trial.

Furthermore, they called for a number of Acts to be reviewed or repealed including the Internal Security Act, the Official Secrets Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

They also asked for the Article 121 (1) of the Federal Constitution to be restored to its original form because 1988 amendments have made the Cabinet “all too controlling and powerful” and had taken away the power of the courts to review the decisions of ministers.

They said the National Economic Policy (NEP) was supposed to be a “temporary” special measure to reduce and eradicate poverty and restructure society meant to end in 1990, but the continuation of this discriminatory policy since then was not justified.

They questioned the equity figure released by the Government, saying that the feeling is that it does not accurately reflect the amount of corporate equity ownership in the country by ethnicity.

The Comango report is part of the Stakeholders Report which would be used in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council.

The Malaysian Government will be in Geneva next February to answer questions on what the NGOs had raised and to showcase what it has done to fulfil its obligations and commitment to human rights. At a Comango press conference, Honey Tan -- representing Empower -- said restrictions on the freedom of assembly have morphed into a more sophiscated form with the police now going to the courts.

“Previously, the police would crack down physically but now they are using the judiciary to suppress peaceful freedom of assembly.

“They are getting court orders and injunctions to stop people from attending rallies. If you breach the court order, that is actually contempt of court.

“This can have very serious repercussions,” she said.

On sexual rights, Comango also called for a repeal of Sections 377 (a) and (b) of the Penal Code so that anal and oral sex would no longer be criminal acts if they are consensual.

Andrew Khoo Chin Hoo, representing the Bar Council human rights committee, said there was selective prosecution and questioned why Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was being charged for sodomy while former Health Minister Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek was let off for oral sex.

“Both are offences under the same Act,” he said, and noted that while Anwar denied he had committed sodomy, Chua had admitted to oral sex by saying that he was the man in a sex videotape.


“The Government chooses its victims and who it wants to charge,” said Ivy Josiah, executive director of the Women’s Aid Organisation.

Josiah said human rights as a whole had improved in the country, and there was a consciousness among Malaysians that they have a say. More people were now coming out to demonstrate because they were no longer afraid.

The press too, she said, was freer and more balanced now in covering even sensitive issues.

“The culture is changing. There is more freedom than five years ago,” she said.

The full Comango report would be available from Tuesday onwards at

http://www.empowermalaysia.org/ or http://www.suaram.net/ and http://www.wao.org.my/.

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