Tuesday 11 September 2012

Former Suhakam commissioners back Suaram

An organisation consisting of former commissioners of Malaysia Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), threw its support behind Suaram, calling on the BN government to stop intimidating the human rights NGO.

The Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) urged the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry not to make unsubstantiated statements but to undertake a fair and transparent investigation on the financial accounting and other legal requirements of Suaram.

police abuse suhakam pc 050808 simon sipaun"The agency must undertake a full, thorough and fair investigation and make the report public, for the people to judge its integrity," said Proham in a statement issued today.

The statement was jointly issued by Proham chief Simon Sipaun (right), deputy chief Hamdan Adnan, secretary-general Denison Jayasooria and member Ramon Navaratnam. All four are former Suhakam commissioners.

The statement stressed that receiving funding from any legitimate sources for the promotion and protection of human rights cannot be constructed as being illegal or anti-national in any way.

Proham pointed out that foreign funding has been secured not just by civil society and voluntary organisations but also the government.

"It has to be stated that the government itself has received much foreign aid and loans for development purposes from inter alia, the World Bank, the ADB and IDB.

"Yet the government has never compromised its integrity and sovereignty. Our question is, why must the authorities view foreign findings received by Suaram differently?" it asked.

Proham reminded the government that Malaysia is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council hence, it should show moderation and a more liberal outlook to encourage the development of a more open, liberal and mature democracy in the country.

“Proham recognises the right to organise oneself as an association as a fundamental human right guaranteed by the federal constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“In Malaysia, this right by law necessitates groups to register themselves as a society or under the companies act which will enable the groups to fulfil banking and financial transactions and good  governance".

Proham: Make public funds available

In this context, explained Proham, Suaram has been operating as a human rights advocacy group since 1989 and has observed the laws scrupulously.

azlan“They have consistently operated as a human rights organisation in the best interests of the nation".

It cited the NGO's publications including 'Suaram, 20 years defending human rights', a comprehensive documentation of the human rights defenders track record, the annual human rights report published since 1998, as well as significant number of documentations which attest Suaram's credibility.

Suram's track record in promoting and advancing human rights, noted Proham, has been honoured by Suhakam with the Human Rights Community Award.

“This is indeed a major recognition as Suaram was also a major critic of Suhakam’s role as the national human rights institution. This underscores the professionalism and neutrality of Suaram".

Proham called on the federal government and agencies to have a positive appreciation of human rights especially the role of civil society as human rights defenders as civil societies have played a very effective role in holding public officials and institutions accountable.

“Surely this is consistent with the government’s aim to defend basis human rights and freedoms".

azlanIt also called on the government to make public funds accessible for the work of protecting and promoting human rights, as well as providing further tax incentives to the private sector to fund such activities.

“If such funds were readily available there will be no need to secure funding from overseas sources. Government has in a way indirectly contributed to a situation whereby civil society has been forced to seek overseas funds to operate effectively.

“This is indeed an opportunity for government to review, revise and update its framework and policies towards enhancing the volunteerism and contributions of civil society, that is working hard, despite severe constraints, to help build a better Malaysia,” it added.

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