In conjunction with the World Human Rights Day, Pusat KOMAS, SAVE RIVERS, Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (JKOASM) are happy to express our heartiest wishes to fellow fervent human rights defenders in Malaysia a Happy Human Rights Day. We congratulate the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) for its determination to push for its annual report be debated in Parliament. This historic event reflects, not only the struggle endured by human rights organisations in Malaysia, but also reaffirmed the government’s aspiration and commitment in advancing the cause of Human Rights which was sidestepped over the decades.

We would like to clarify the surging inaccurate conceptions and perspectives that surfaced during the Parliament debates that might jeopardise honest intentions of equipping this nation with fundamental human rights to its people. Human Right Day seems an appropriate way to correct these records.

To begin with, it was reported that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) is contrary to Article 153, a provision that serves to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak. As concisely stated by various civil societies, legal personnel, constitutional experts and academics, Article 153 of our Federal Constitution was found compatible with Articles 1 (4) and 2 (2) of ICERD as principal objectives of both documents is to accomplish “substantive equality through, if warranted, special temporary measures such as affirmative actions”. Thus, this often used attack on ICERD ratification must cease. It is common for any parliament to decide the future of any law. This once “the criteria for granting equality in social and economic spheres for Malaysians” is achieved, Parliament can relook at Article 153 if it deems necessary. 

Secondly, criticism that blames SUHAKAM is religious-insensitive by advocating rights of the LGBT community showcases lopsided views. With due respect, we would like to remind all that fundamental human rights are universal values that should not be subverted by the majorities – based on ethnicity, religion, political ideologies or other status. LGBT communities are peoples, like us, belonging to our society and deserve respect, dignity and human rights.  

The third comment, a suggestion to entrust Orang Asli reserve land to Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli (JAKOA) as an effective measure to refrain incidences of land-grabbing seems to be a misconstrued idea, if not off-target. While the point of protecting Customary Land belonging to Indigenous  people is core to resolving the generational issues affecting the Orang Asal, the way forward  is to adopt the principle of self-determination as a  necessary for any formulation and implementation of changes to the law, policies and practices impacting their communities. The role of JAKOA’s function must be readdressed to its original role as a service agency for the Orang Asli community by replacing the unilateral power now bestowed upon them by law.

The fourth question, citizenship or documentation issues that render millions stateless, especially the children in Sabah and other parts is an important point that must be addressed complexity of the issues is further entangled as most of these undocumented children are born out of wedlock, parents without document, delayed registration of both and other historical realities. It is time to resolve the crucial documentation issues if we want to ensure education, health etc especially for the children. It is a long overdue move needed to protect the right of the children.

Therefore, Pusat KOMAS, SAVE Rivers and JKOASM hope this significant achievement of SUHAKAM and Pakatan Harapan government debate would not be a fleeting wind but a trajectory in strengthening the aspects of Human Rights in every level of society. Happy Human Rights Day.

Jointly Released by,

Pusat KOMAS – Ryan Chua (Programme Coordinator)

Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia, Tijah Yok Chopil (Chairperson)

SAVE Rivers, Peter Kallang (Chairperson)

10th December 2019.