(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Today, the world commemorates the 50th anniversary of the adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an unprecedented commitment by nations around the world to defend human rights and freedom.
In Malaysia, however, the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1998 International Human Rights Year as well as the five-year review of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA) - ‘"Vienna + 5" - unanimously decided by the 1993 World Human Rights Conference attended by 171 United Nations member states, seem to have been ignored by the Malaysian government.
During the debate on the 1999 budgetary estimates for the Foreign Ministry in Parliament earlier this week, I had asked the Foreign Minister, Datuk Abdullah Badawi why the Malaysian Government had opted out of the United Nations human rights mechanism to review progress made in implementing the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, as Malaysia was one of the countries which had failed to respond to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ request to submit contributions to the review process.
The World Conference on Human Rights not only reaffirmed the universality of human rights and the related commitments of States but also unanimously endorsed the universality of all the basic principles that should guide the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide whereby all rights, civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights as well as the right to development are regarded as indivisible and of equal value.
Badawi seemed to be surprised by the information that the Malaysian Government had opted out of the United Nations human rights review process and he promised to check and to keep me informed of the matter. As this is a matter of great public interest, I would call on the Foreign Minister to publicly explain to Malaysians why the Malaysian Government had refused to co-operate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to carry out a review of the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
Instead of opting out of the international system to promote and protect human rights, the Malaysian Government should give greater priority to mainstream the promotion and protection of human rights in Malaysia.
I call on the Malaysian Government to formulate a national action plan for human rights to mainstream human rights and to strengthen the institutions of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Malaysia, which have been receiving severe body blows in a year when Malaysians should be joining the world to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Malaysian Human Rights Action Plan should lay down the framework for the enlargement of human rights capacities in the country, including the establishment of national human rights institutions and the introduction of human rights-oriented changes in national legislation, the ratification of core human rights treaties like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and strengthening the institutions of democracy and the rule of law.