(Petaling Jaya, Friday): In my 80-minute meeting with the Suhakam
Chairman, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman yesterday, I called on Suhakam to make public
its proposals to the Government to amend the Human Rights Commission Act 1999 as
their submission to the government
without making them available to
Members of Parliament and the Malaysian public is another blow to its fragile credibility as
a good governance human rights institution upholding the principles of
accountability and transparency.
Furthermore, it is in the public interests as
well as the interests of MPs to know of Suhakam’s views as to how to improve
its parent statute in order to
ensure that the Commission can be effective in the discharge of its statutory
duties to protect and promote human rights.
As Parliament is meeting on Monday, it is
imperative that Suhakam should immediately make public its proposals for
amendments to the Human Rights Commission Act 1999 to allow MPs to canvas for
such legislative changes in the June meeting of Parliament – unless Suhakam
regards Parliament as an useless institution being a mere
rubber stamp of the Executive and that it is irrelevant whether MPs know
about its proposals or not!
Today is Friday and Parliament is meeting on
Monday. Is there enough time for Suhakam to make public its proposals for
amendments of the Human Rights Commission Act in time for MPs to be informed of
its contents before the start of Parliament at 10 a.m. on Monday?
In the era of information technology, there is
no problem whatsoever about the
availability of the resources to achieve
this end, as the Suhakam’s proposals could be posted on the Internet and
within minutes, be made known not just to all Malaysian
MPs and interested Malaysians, but even to the whole wide world.
The problem is whether Suhakam has the human
rights will to do what is right and proper to protect and promote human rights!
There is another reason why Suhakam’s
proposals to the Government for amendments to the Human Rights Commission Act
should be made public – the conflicting views between the present and former
Suhakam Chairman about its content and purpose.
Yesterday, Abu Talib told Malaysiakini that the amendments sought by Suhakam were to “clarify the ambiguities in
certain provisions, and not to ask for more clout” for
is in direct conflict with what Tan
Sri Musa Hitam had said before stepping down as Suhakam Chairman, telling Malaysiakini on April 24,
2002 that Suhakam must be given some “enforcement powers”
to function more effectively, so that it would not be a “purely
recommending agency” but “given
some leeway to be an enforcement agency - not 100 percent but there should be
some enforcement element".
Abu Talib may not agree
that Suhakam should be given some “enforcement powers” but this is
neither here nor there, as Suhakam’s proposals for amendments to the Human
Rights Commission Act had been submitted to the government
when Musa was still Suhakam Chairman, before Abu Talib’s commission
As both Musa and Abu Talib were talking about
the same set of Suhakam proposals,
how could they reach such diametric conclusions – one claiming that it was to
ask for some “enforcement powers” while the other stoutly denying it?
But whether Musa or Abu Talib is right is
secondary to the larger question about the right of Malaysians, the civil
society and Parliament to be informed and involved
about Suhakam’s proposed amendments to the Suhakam Act – a right to
information, a fundamental human right, which should not be denied by Suhakam!
I hope Suhakam can act with the speed and reflex of a nimble human rights watchdog in the era of information and communications technology to be able to make public its proposals for amendments to its parent Act before Parliament reconvenes on Monday morning.