[23 November 2018] HAKAM REGRETS UNREST CREATED BY PARTIES ON ICERD RATIFICATION & REJECTS CALLS FOR FOREIGN MINISTER’S RESIGNATION

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1. HAKAM regrets the decision of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in deciding not to ratify the ICERD. However, HAKAM regrets even more that that this issue has been exploited to generate fear and divisiveness in the country.

2. HAKAM urges the government that this precautionary stance be a temporary measure and would continue to engage stakeholders on this issue to dispel the misconceptions on the ICERD. HAKAM also urges for any further discussions on ICERD be conducted in a civil manner without threats & fear-mongering. The government should revisit its decision and reconsider ratification again in the future.

3. HAKAM further regrets the calls for Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah to resign in light of these developments. The Foreign Minister has done an admirable job in advocating for Malaysia to ratify an important international human rights treaty.

4. HAKAM will continue to support the government’s vision of a New Malaysia – in creating a fair and just society where everyone has a place under the Malaysian sun.

Lim Wei Jiet

HAKAM Secretary-General

On behalf of the HAKAM Executive Committee

[29 September 2018] HAKAM APPLAUDS TUN MAHATHIR’S COMMITMENT TO RATIFY ALL CORE HUMAN RIGHTS TREATIES IN THE 73RD UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY

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1. HAKAM welcomes Prime Minister Tun Mahathir’s commitment to “ratify all remaining core UN instruments related to the protection of human rights” at his speech in the 73rd UN General Assembly yesterday.

2. Tun Mahathir has also promised that the new Malaysia “will firmly espouse the principles promoted by the UN in our international engagements”, which include “the principles of truth, human rights, the rule of law, justice, fairness, responsibility and accountability, as well as sustainability.”

3. HAKAM highly commends the new Malaysia’s principled commitment to human rights at the international stage. In a world threatened by the rise of right-wing nationalism & erosion of civil liberties, the new Malaysia yesterday showed leadership & hope to the other nations on the future of human rights.

4. Nonetheless, HAKAM also takes note of Tun Mahathir’s concern that it “will not be easy for us because Malaysia is multi-ethnic, multireligious, multicultural and multilingual” and that the Government will “accord space and time for all to deliberate and to decide freely based on democracy.”

5. Whilst consultation with all stakeholders is a must, HAKAM takes the view that the presence of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious & multi-cultural society should not be a barrier to a country’s responsibility to uphold human rights. Human rights are innate, inalienable & universal in nature. Religion, race & culture should never be used as a justification for condoning discrimination, injustice & suffering. Everyone deserves to be shielded by & to thrive underneath the over-arching umbrella of human rights.

6. In this respect, HAKAM urges the new Malaysian Government to take immediate steps to do the following:

6.1. Ratify, without reservations, all key international human rights conventions, which include:

(i) The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

(ii) The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR);

(iii) The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination;

(iv) The UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment; 

(v) The International Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; 

(vi) The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; and

(vii) The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

6.2. Remove all reservations in the international human rights conventions which it has ratified, which include:

(i) The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC);

(ii) The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); and

(iii) The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

7. The Malaysian Government is not alone in this journey. As long as Malaysia is consistent with its recent stance in the 73rd UN General Assembly, HAKAM believes that civil society organisations will wholeheartedly support this endeavor and provide all the assistance they can.

Lim Wei Jiet

HAKAM Secretary-General

On behalf of the HAKAM Executive Committee

[9 September 2018] PH LAWMAKERS MUST STOP CALLS TO USE SEDITION ACT

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HAKAM notes with grave concern the recent call for the authorities to investigate former IGP Mohammed Hanif Omar under the Sedition Act – in relation to an allegation that Lim Kit Siang had pushed for the division of peninsula Malaysia into two after the 1969 race riots.

This is inconsistent with civil society’s longstanding position that this archaic act must be repealed in its entirety. The Sedition Act is arbitrary, anti-democratic & has been abused by the previous administration on many occasions.

Further, there are sufficient existing laws and measures to ensure that the fundamental constitutional rights of all citizens are scrupulously protected. Lim Kit Siang himself is pursuing a civil remedy vide a defamation action against the former IGP.

This recent call also clearly violates Pakatan Harapan’s own manifesto to revoke the Sedition Act, which was a critical tool of the British colonial authorities to deal with freedom fighters like Ahmad Boestamam & India’s Mahatma Gandhi.

Pertinently, it is also inconsistent with the previous appeals to courts, by the same lawmakers, to adjourn sedition cases pending the Home Ministry’s review & prospect of abolishing the Sedition Act in Parliament. It is thus only right that Pakatan Harapan lawmakers keep true to their words, at all times.

HAKAM reiterates its call for the urgent repeal of the Sedition Act and for a moratorium on all cases pending its repeal in Parliament.

Dr. Gurdial Singh Nijar

HAKAM President

On behalf of the HAKAM Executive Committee

[27 August 2018] ABOLISH THE OSA & ENACT A FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT IN ITS PLACE

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HAKAM notes with great concern Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s recent comments to maintain the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA).

The OSA is an archaic law which grants excessive powers to Ministers & public officers to arbitrarily classify almost any government document as an “official secret”. The punishment for communicating an “official secret” can reach up to 7 years imprisonment, which is severely punitive in nature.

The OSA was regularly abused by the previous government to persecute opposition figures & civil society activists. Notably, former Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli was charged under the OSA for leaking a page of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report.

Maintaining the OSA in its current form runs contrary to the principles of transparency & freedom of information – which directly undermines accountability & good governance. Without adequate access to information of government policies, the citizenry cannot make informed decisions. Lack of informed decisions inevitably lead to incompetent, or worse, corrupt governments.

This is also a breach of Promise 14 of Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto, which states that the new Government would revise the OSA and enact a Freedom of Information Act. Keeping the OSA in our statute books is also inconsistent with Pakatan Harapan’s laudable commitment to instil integrity in governance via the establishment of the Special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption & the Centre on Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC).

It would also be an anomaly for two Pakatan Harapan state governments – Selangor & Penang – to have freedom of information legislation, yet the federal government chooses to adopt a conflicting position.

HAKAM is aware of the importance of maintaining state secrecy in limited occasions, such as military briefings and Cabinet meetings on the nation’s strategic assets. A Freedom of Information Act can accommodate these valid concerns, yet place freedom of information at the deserving forefront.

HAKAM hereby urges the Government to abolish the OSA and to enact a Freedom of Information Act in its place.

Lim Wei Jiet

HAKAM Secretary-General

On behalf of the HAKAM Executive Committee

[11 July 2018] HAKAM CONDEMNS INVESTIGATION ON LAWYER FADIAH NADWA FIKRI UNDER THE SEDITION ACT 1948 AND COMMUNICATIONS & MULTIMEDIA ACT 1998

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HAKAM notes that lawyer and activist Fadiah Nadwa Fikri was called for investigation by the police under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948 & Section 233 of the Communications & Multimedia Act 1998 for publishing an article online in respect of the monarchy.

HAKAM heavily condemns the authorities’ continued reliance & enforcement of repressive laws such as the Sedition Act 1948 & Section 233 of the Communications & Multimedia Act 1998. These oppressive laws are arbitrary in nature, chillingly restricts our freedom of expression & have no place in a democracy such as Malaysia.

HAKAM would like to remind the authorities of Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto for the 14th General Elections, notably Promise No. 27 which clearly outlines the current Government’s pledge to revoke the Sedition Act 1948 and to abolish draconian provisions in the Communications & Multimedia Act 1998.

Several Ministers have even publicly expressed that the Government will move to repeal these oppressive laws when Parliament is convened.

It is therefore appalling that the authorities today continue to rely on such oppressive laws to investigate & police the lives of ordinary Malaysians. This is a blatant disregard to the spirit of reform espoused by the current Pakatan Harapan Government.

HAKAM therefore urges the Government and the Attorney General’s Chambers to impose a moratorium on any use of the Sedition Act 1948 & Section 233 of the Communications & Multimedia Act 1998 – as well as other oppressive laws – until they have been repealed by Parliament, as promised.

The freedom of expression is a cherished constitutional right & the building block of every democracy. Any issue, however controversial & sacred, must be open to discussion & criticism.

Malaysians have long been shackled by fear & retaliation in the past for merely speaking their minds. And our systems of check & balance, accountability & rule of law have suffered greatly as a result. Let us not repeat such mistakes.

Lim Wei Jiet

HAKAM’s Secretary-General

On behalf of the HAKAM Executive Committee

[7 July 2018] HAKAM CONDEMNS LGBT DISCRIMINATION ACROSS ALL PUBLIC SERVICE APPOINTMENTS IN MALAYSIA

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HAKAM notes the negative backlash towards the appointment of a person in the Ministry of Youth & Sports simply because he/she is from the LGBT community or had in the past campaigned on LGBT issues.

HAKAM strongly condemns this form of discrimination against members of the LGBT community in Malaysia. No person should be denied opportunities in employment and career progression, be it within the public or private sphere, on grounds of sexual orientation.

The right to equality & non-discrimination is protected under Article 8 of our Federal Constitution. Further, the right to life enshrined under Article 5 of our Federal Constitution includes the right to live with dignity & the right to earn a livelihood.

Article 2 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights also states that everyone is entitled to rights and freedoms regardless of sex.

HAKAM therefore urges the Government to uphold the abovementioned principles of equality & non-discrimination at all levels of appointment within the public service.

It was Mahatma Gandhi who is often attributed to the saying: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members”.

Let us all strive to be a great nation in this new Malaysia.

Lim Wei Jiet

HAKAM Secretary-General

On behalf of the HAKAM Executive Committee

[3rd July 2018] HAKAM WELCOMES FOREIGN MINISTER’S IMMEDIATE COMMITMENT TO RATIFY 6 INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS CONVENTIONS

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It has been reported that the newly minted Foreign Minister, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, has pledged for Malaysia to ratify 6 international human rights conventions.

These 6 international human rights conventions have been identified to include:

1) The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

2) The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR);

3) The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination;

4) The UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment;

5) The International Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; and

6) The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

First and foremost, HAKAM wholeheartedly welcomes and supports the Foreign Minister’s commitment to ensure Malaysia’s compliance with globally recognized human rights standards.

HAKAM also recommends the Malaysian Government to consider ratifying other equally important international human rights conventions, such as the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. This is especially important considering the refugee crisis occurring globally, as well as regionally in light of the plight of ethnic Rohingyas fleeing from persecution in Myanmar.

HAKAM also urges the Malaysian Government to remove all necessary reservations in the international human rights conventions which it has ratified – namely, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

HAKAM looks forward to working with the Minister to advance our commitment to human rights. And place Malaysia in the forefront as an indefatigable defender of human rights.

Lim Wei Jiet

HAKAM’s Secretary-General

On behalf of the HAKAM Executive Committee

Invitation to “Human Rights Conversations” on 8th Dec 2018

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In conjunction with World Human Rights Day, HAKAM will be organizing an event titled “Human Rights Conversations”.

The details of the event are as follows:

Date    :         8th December 2018 (Saturday)
Time   :          2.00 – 5.00pm
Venue :          Persatuan Alumni Universiti Malaya Clubhouse, Jalan Susur, Damansara, 59100 Kuala Lumpur.

The Foreign Minister, YB Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah, will be delivering a keynote speech on “Ratifying International Human Rights Treaties: Why, When & How?”. The event will also feature speakers such as Deputy Minister of Women, Family & Community Development, YB Hannah Yeoh, recently retired Federal Court Judge Tan Sri Datuk Zainun Ali and Cartoonist Zunar.

The full agenda of the event, as well as the official poster, is attached in this email.

HAKAM cordially invites all HAKAM members to attend this flagship event. Political parties, foreign embassies, civil society & the public will be present. To register, kindly send your details to info@hakam.org.my. Seats are limited.

Hope for refugees in the new Malaysia? — Dennis Ignatius

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Source: Free Malaysia Today

By Dennis Ignatius

One of the great failures of the former BN regime when it came to human rights was its dismal record in honouring its moral and legal obligations towards those fleeing political, religious or ethnic persecution in their homelands. For BN, it was all about political expediency instead of respect for sacrosanct principles.

Many genuine refugees and asylum seekers were hastily handed back into the hands of their tormentors, never to be heard of again. For quite a few, it resulted in long years of incarceration, torture, persecution and great anguish. That our nation was party to such terrible acts will forever be to our shame.

Among the more infamous cases were that of a Saudi blogger fleeing to New Zealand who was apprehended in Malaysia and sent back to Jeddah, several Turkish nationals living in Malaysia who were arrested in almost clandestine fashion and handed over to President Erdogan’s secret police, and dozens of Uighurs who were deported to China despite being registered with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Read more

How Malaysia’s legal system allows child marriage, five cases daily

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Source: Malay Mail

Under state Islamic laws, the marriageable age is 18 for boys and 16 for girls, but Shariah courts have the authority to give consent to those below the permitted age to get married. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 — In Malaysia, there are ways for children below 18 to get married, thanks to various “loopholes” in the dual legal system of Shariah and civil law.

The dual legal system, a result of the Reid Commission’s decision to make religion a state matter in 1956, separates legislation into civil law, which applies to non-Muslims, and Shariah law which applies to Muslims.

The statute governing non-Muslim marriages and divorces is the federal Law Reform (Marriage & Divorce) Act 1976, while Muslim marriages and divorces are governed by the respective state Islamic Family Laws.

Over 9,000 cases of child marriage occurred between 2010 and 2015, which averaged to about five cases a day.

A total of 6,268 of the child marriage cases involved Muslim couples, while the remaining 2,775 involved non-Muslims, according to data published in Penang Institute’s Child Marriages in Malaysia report. Read more