Malaysian Government refused to co-operate with United Nations in the five-year human rights review of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA)


Speech
- 1999 Budget Committee stage (Foreign Ministry)

by Lim Kit Siang  

(Dewan Rakyat, Monday): 1998 is an important year for human rights in the world as it is the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  This is why the United Nations has designated the year as the International Human Rights Year for the international community and for  all nations  to mark this important  event marking the 50th anniversary of the  historic moment and document for human rights.

However, the Malaysian Government has opted out of the international human rights community and has refused to mark or commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In fact, there is another reason making 1998 a very important year for human rights as it is the fifth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

Five years ago, 171 United Nations member states including Malaysia  participating in the World Conference on Human Rights at Vienna unanimously adopted the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action which, among other things, declared the following tenets:
 

The World Conference on Human Rights also decided that on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the fifth year of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, (known as Vienna Plus Five), the United Nations and the international community should carry out a review of the implementation of the Vienna Declaration, involving all  international agencies related to human rights and state governments.

I have here the latest report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights submitted to the United Nations Secretary-General and the General Assembly  reporting on its review of the  implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, where it stated clearly that it requested all interested parties, including governments to submit their contributions to the human rights review process, but Malaysia was one of the countries which failed to give any response and participate in the review.

Can the Foreign Minister  explain why the Malaysian Government has chosen to opt out of the international human rights review process, when Malaysia should have been a model member of the United Nations?

Fifty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the time has come for the international community to develop new international standards and norms for the promotion and protection of human rights.  The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action enunciated a very important principle when it declared that the promotion and protection of human rights is a legitimate concern of the international community, so that no country can claim  flagrant violation of human rights as part of its sovereign right and no business of the international community or  that any questioning of such violations from outside the country was an unacceptable interference with internal domestic affairs of a nation.

The promotion and protection of human rights in the international arena has reached a stage where there can be no room for any country to claim the inviolate sovereign right to violate human rights and Malaysia must contribute to the development of international standards and norms for the scrutiny of human rights record involving every nation.

 Malaysia, for instance, has the international right and duty to raise the alarm at human rights violations, whether as in the past in apartheid South Africa, Middle East, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo or even in the United States, just as Malaysia must be prepared to have her human rights record scrutinised by any one in the international community, whether other national players, international organisations or even individuals.

Can the Foreign Minister inform Parliament the progress in the field of promoting and protecting human rights in Malaysia in the last five years?  The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had called on all member nations to ratify the core human rights treaties. What is the record of Malaysia in this field?

The DAP MP for Teluk Intan, M . Kulasegaran had just asked why the Malaysian Government had failed to ratify the two international human rights instruments, the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant for Social, Economic and Cultural Rights.

Two decades ago, I had moved a motion in Parliament for the ratification of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, and the reason given by the government at the time why Malaysia had not ratified this international human rights instrument was that the human rights in the Covenant were already entrenched in the Malaysian Constitution with regard to fundamental liberties.

This should have been the reason for the ratification of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights rather than the reverse.

Unfortunately, in the  year of International Human Rights, Malaysia has not only opted out of the cause for the promotion and protection of human rights in the international arena, Malaysia has in the past few months acquired the notoriety as being the "new bad boy" in the international scene as far as human rights are concerned.

When Myanmar was admitted into ASEAN last year, government ministers expressed the hope that the ASEAN participation could influence the Myanmese military junta to become more democratic. But the reverse seems to be taking place, with Malaysia being regarded in the international arena as moving closer to Myanmar as far as human rights record is concerned.

I would serious propose that the promotion and protection of human rights should be an important objective of the Foreign Ministry in all its functions and activities.

Finally, I want  to ask the Foreign Minister to explain why he had cancelled his meeting scheduled with the Inter-Parliamentary Union mission sent to Malaysia last week in connection with the violation of human rights of Parliamentarians, in this case, the DAP MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng.

(7/12/98)


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong