SEPTEMBER 16 — The Malaysian Federation was established in 1963. Malaya had earlier won its independence in 1957, and in 1967, we came together with our closest neighbours to form the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Asean has resolved that it shall be a rules-based, people-oriented and people-centred community. Its Member States signed the Asean Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) in 2012 that affirms all the civil and political rights, and all the economic, social and cultural rights in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. Further, Asean Member States have committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all peoples in the region. Central to this commitment is the rule of law.
On the 53rd anniversary of Malaysia’s establishment, it is worth recalling that our Federal Constitution provides a domestic rights-based framework regarding, among others, life and liberty, movement, speech, assembly, association, religion and property. Malaysia is committed to the respect, upholding, and protection of these rights. The same are to be responsibly exercised according to law. In charting our shared future together, we are well-served by the Constitution and the AHRD to aid us in navigating the emerging challenges that we face as a nation.
The Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) is seized with the task of encouraging Asean Member States to ratify international human rights treaties, obtaining information from Member States on the promotion and protection of human rights, and developing common approaches on human rights matters of interest to Asean. We should therefore be open to learning about any gaps or shortcomings that may need to be addressed from the human rights perspective. We should approach these exercises positively. It is only in this spirit that Asean will be able to swiftly forge ahead with a regional political, economic and social cohesion meaningful for its peoples, and one capable of meeting possible conundrums that may arise caused by the rapidly changing global landscape.
In celebrating this special day, we must also acknowledge the sacrifices of Malaysians from all walks of life in contributing to the rapid development of Malaysia, and honour them by working towards a more united and vibrant Malaysia. Let us continue to uphold the rule of law and build an enabling environment for human rights and fundamental freedoms to be effectively respected, enjoyed, protected, and fulfilled for our fellow citizens equally. As a nation, we have savoured our triumphs, most recently in the heroic performance of all our athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio. The Malaysia of our dreams, like Asean, is a “work in progress”. All of us, starting from different places and viewpoints, must attempt to open new channels of constructive communication, and embrace a shared vision of purpose and progress.
* This statement is released by Edmund Bon Tai Soon, Representative of Malaysia to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) on the occasion of Malaysia Day.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.