25th October 2018
In two weeks time, on the 8th of November 2018, an important proceeding will be taking place at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, in Geneva. Malaysia’s human rights practices will be scrutinised in a mechanism known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
A multitude of recommendations are expected to be made by the UN member countries across the world, from the call for Malaysia to ratify various international human rights treaties to basic issues such as freedom of speech and religion, the rights of stateless persons and refugees, equality between the sexes, inter-ethnic harmony, and many more.
MACSA, or in full the Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the UPR Process, will be sending a delegation of eight human rights defenders consisting of academics, legal practitioners, a medical doctor as well as experts on various human rights subjects, to Geneva from the 5th to the 9th of November 2018.
Apart from attending the review session at the Palais des Nations, the delegates will also be meeting and speaking to reps from various countries to brief and inform them of the realities and human rights conditions in Malaysia.
The Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations, Geneva, H.E. Dato’ Amran Mohamed Zin has agreed to meet MACSA’s delegation on the 5th of November 2018.
As a coalition consisting of 52 civil society organisations across the nation, MACSA works on advocating and highlighting human rights issues for the UPR process. As it stands, MACSA is currently the biggest civil society coalition that is taking part in this cycle of the UPR for Malaysia. MACSA has gone through series of dialogues and discussions with human rights organisations in Geneva, apart from being involved in round table meetings with the Malaysian Foreign Ministries as well as the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM).
MACSA aims not only to specifically study and advocate human rights issues in Malaysia, but also to set the record straight on cultural relativism of human rights based on our local context, taking into account diverse cultural and religious sensitivities — principles that sometimes fail to be observed by other human rights groups, local or otherwise.
For which purpose, MACSA have submitted its stakeholder’s report on the human rights issues in Malaysia to the Human Rights Council in March this year, covering seven main issues, namely (a) rights of stateless persons and refugees; (b) rights of persons with disabilities; (c) issues surrounding LGBT; (d) combating discrimination based on belief and freedom of religion; (e) children and sexuality; (f) combating discrimination against parental rights of Muslim reverts; and (g) cultural rights and national unity. It is MACSA’s stand that any recommendation accepted and implemented (or rejected and not implemented) by Malaysia for the upcoming UPR, must, in addition to upholding international human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI), also be in tandem with Malaysia’s own laws and customs, particularly with the Federal Constitution and the and positions of the States existing within the Federation.
Thus in this regard, MACSA would like to outline our concerns and stand on the following issues:-
Caution on wholesale treaty ratification approach
1. MACSA notes that Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, P Waytha Moorthy, had recently issued a statement that the Government is committed to ratify all six core international human rights treaties. The Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah had also previously alluded to the same commitment.
We would like to caution the Government, that taking a wholesale treaty ratification approach is not a wise move for Malaysia’s foreign policy. In fact, there is potential dishonesty, due to several reasons such as bureaucracy as well as inadequate resources in complying to the treaty obligations. MACSA is of the opinion that valid and fundamental concerns in terms of our cultural and religious values, as well as the potential clash with the provisions of the Federal Constitution, must be adequately addressed and thoroughly discussed with all stakeholders, lest our ratification will be a window dressing at best, or might even backfire with issues of threatened sovereignty, at worst.
2. MACSA fully supports the government’s effort to ensure the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals to religious guidance are ensured, and lauds the recent publication of the ebook “Panduan Hijrah Diri” (Guide for Self Migration) to help LGBT persons to return to the right path, as announced by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusuf Rawa in Parliament on 23rd of October.
Discriminatory practices in workplace
3. There have been numerous reports of muslim women facing discrimination in employment due to denial of their choice in wearing headscarves in accordance with their religious teachings. There have also been complaints of muslim men who are not allowed by their employers to perform the obligatory Friday prayers on Friday afternoons. These are serious and fundamental human rights infringement that affects so many Malaysians, and thus need to be addressed urgently.
MACSA urges the Human Resources minister, M Kulasegaran, to expedite the dress code initiative. We were told that the Labour Department has formed a special panel to deliberate on the guideline, which is expected to be finalised by year’s end to prevent workplace discrimination namely the hijab banning particularly in the airline and hotel industries. These discussions, with M Kulasegaran, according to YB Mujahid during MACSA’s engagement with the latter, is in its final stage.
Stateless Children and IMM13
4. MACSA welcomes the move by the government to allow stateless children to register in national schools as announced by the Deputy Education Minister, Teo Nie Ching. The government must however ensure fairness and establish transparency in the registration process where there exists no discrimination of various ethnicities involved in the process. Given the fact that this group of people is often socially and economically exploited, there should be no unscrupulous practices of community leaders or representatives charging hefty fees for assisting in verification processes.
Flowing therefrom, MACSA is also concerned with the reports that the Government is halting the issuance of IMM13 passes to children of refugees and immigrants, particularly in Sabah. No children who are born within the Malaysian territory should ever be made stateless, regardless of the absence of documentations. We urge the government to provide accessibility into the deep jungles of our Malaysian lands in ensuring Malaysians are not denied of their right to citizenship and registration by mere reason of their localities.
Azril Mohd Amin
Chairman, Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the UPR Process (MACSA)
Associate Professor Dr. Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar
Latest list of Civil Society Organisations in the MACSA coalition:-
Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA) | Allied Coordinating Committee of Islamic NGOs (ACCIN) | Persatuan Peguam-Peguam Muslim Malaysia (PPMM) | Islamic and Strategic Studies Institute Berhad (ISSI) | Ikatan Pengamal Perubatan dan Kesihatan Muslim Malaysia (I-MEDIK) | Darul Insyirah | Pertubuhan Muafakat Sejahtera Masyarakat Malaysia (MUAFAKAT) | Persatuan Orang Cacat Penglihatan Islam Malaysia (PERTIS) | Persatuan Belia Islam Nasional (PEMBINA) | Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ) | Pertubuhan Ikatan Kekeluargaan Rumpun Nusantara (HARUM) | Gabungan Peguam Muslim Malaysia (i-PEGUAM) | Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) | Majlis Ittihad Ummah | Pusat Kecemerlangan Pendidikan Ummah (PACU) | Persatuan Peguam Syarie Malaysia (PGSM) | CONCERN (Coalition of Sabah Islamic NGOs) | Harakah Islamiah (HIKMAH) | Lembaga Al-Hidayah | Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA) | Sarawak Halaqah Kemajuan Muslim Sarawak (HIKAM) | Pertubuhan IKRAM Negeri Sarawak | Pertubuhan Kebajikan Islam Malaysia (PERKIM) Cawangan Sarawak | Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM) Negeri Sarawak Yayasan Ikhlas Sarawak | Persatuan Ranuhabban Akhi Ukhti (PRAU) | Ikatan Graduan Melayu Sarawak (IGMS) | Persatuan Kebangsaan Melayu Sarawak (PKMS) Sukarelawan Al-Falah | YADIM Sarawak | Persatuan Kebajikan Masyarakat Islam Subang Jaya (PERKEMAS) | Young Professionals | Pertubuhan Damai & Cinta Insani (PENDAMAI) | Yayasan Ihtimam Malaysia | Persatuan Amal Firdausi (PAFI) | Persatuan Jihad Ekonomi Muslim Bersatu Malaysia Yayasan Himmah Malaysia (HIMMAH) | Persatuan Syafaqah Ummah (SYAFAQAH) | Gabungan Persatuan Institusi Tahfiz Al-Quran | Kebangsaan (PINTA) | Malaysian Lawyers Circle (MLC) | Persatuan Kebajikan Masyarakat Islam Subang Jaya (PERKEMAS) | The International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (WAFIQ) | Centre for Alternative Policies in Economics (CAPE) | Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) | International Relations and Diplomacy Committee, Malaysian Youth Parliament (PBM) | Majlis Tindakan Ekonomi Melayu Berhad (MTEM) | WADI Malaysia | Human Security and Peace Scholars Network (HOPE) | Pergerakan Belia India Muslim Malaysia (GEPIMA) | Jaringan Muslim Pulau Pinang |Pertubuhan Penggerak Masyarakat Malaysia (PENGGERAK Malaysia) | Persatuan Indahnya Islam |Persatuan Kebajikan Bajaulaut, Semporna Sabah (PERKEBAL)