Thursday, March 25, 2010

MPs urged to wrest Suhakam from Najib

Suhakam’s future as a credible human rights organisation now lies in the hands of parliamentarians, according to Research for Social Advancement (Refsa) analyst Faisal Mustaffa.
He said Suhakam can only reach its full potential if MPs move a motion seeking Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to transfer powers to Parliament to appoint a Selection Committee.

“This is the first and most crucial step to take. I implore the MPs to move a motion to put Suhakam directly under the purview of Parliament, “ he told FMT.

He said until this happens, no amendments or changes to the Suhakam Act is going to matter.

“It is even less likely that a law is passed making it compulsory for Parliament to debate Suhakam's annual reports,” he said alluding to Suhakam Vice-chairman Simon Sipaun statement in FMT earlier this week.

Sipaun had said the “government has chosen to ignore” Suhakam’s annual reports which ‘contain our major findings and recommendations.”

Although Suhakam was set up by the Parliament in 2000 and designed to act independently, it is however financially dependant on the government.

Its line up of commissioners is appointed by the Yang DiPertuan Agung on advice of the Prime Minister.

“Suhakam must stand above its political masters. It should view issues for its worth and not look at situations through the eyes of political parties and academicians,” said Faisal.

“This is only possible if Suhakam steps out of the government’s shadow.

“Answering to parliament would be the most fundamental step towards making Suhakam independent, accountable and recognised, Faisal said.

He said once this hurdle is crossed, then Parliament can appoint a Select Committee which in turn can open nominations for commissioners.

“Currently there are issues with the new amended process of selecting commissioners. There is a lack of transparency in the selection, “ he said.

Earlier this month Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) accused the Federal Government of ‘disregarding the principles of openness, transparency and inclusiveness’ in selecting members of Suhakam.

Suaram said Najib had appointed three members of civil society organisations without the knowledge and consultation of a majority of these bodies working on human rights in Malaysia.

The new selection process includes a five-member selection committee,of which three members should be representatives of civil society, as stated in the amended law of Suhakam.

However, in a letter dated 4 Feb, the Suhakam chairman had informed Suaram that the three civil society positions had been filled.

Faisal said the changing landscape in multiracial Malaysia now demands that Suhakam stand alone and equip itself with people who had a “sound knowledgeable” of wide-ranging on-ground human rights issues.

by FMT

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