SHK_001_21_21-25 Strategic Plan e-Booklet_V3





Annual Report 2019


The year 2019 was a milestone, with SUHAKAM charting the 20th year of its founding and establishment.The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) has come a long way since Parliament gazetted the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 (Act 597) on 9 September 1999.

A notable highlight of the year, and a timely 20th anniversary gift for SUHAKAM, was the parliamentary debate of the 2018 SUHAKAM Annual Report for the first time, on 5 December 2019. Parliamentarians, as representatives of their constituents, bear a responsibility to recognise and acknowledge human rights issues that exist, and to use the power of their office to seek effective and permanent solutions.

SUHAKAM welcomed the ninth batch of Commissioners midway through the year, with Tan Sri Othman bin Hashim as the incoming Chairman for the period 2019 – 2022. Not long after, a Children’s Commissioner (CC) joined the eight core members on 23 August 2019.

Prof Dato’ Noor Aziah Mohd Awal’s work as CC focuses on the promotion and protection of children’s rights. These rights include the rights of indigenous children, those who are migrants, refugees, undocumented, stateless and children with disabilities, which are all underpinned by the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Recognising that education is the most effective way to nurture future generations who understand, and therefore will promote and protect human rights as a matter of principle, SUHAKAM worked to strengthen its cooperation with the Ministry of Education. SUHAKAM focused on developing the Civic Education Module and providing input in the review of the National Education Policy. SUHAKAM recommends that the National Education Policy should include human rights education as a means to achieve the aspirations of the policy. At the same time, the Human Rights Best Practices in Schools Programme expanded from an initial 222 schools with the addition of another 246 schools from throughout Malaysia in 2019. SUHAKAM initiated talks with the Institutes of Teacher Education Malaysia to incorporate human rights knowledge in the syllabus for teachers from the year 2020.

SUHAKAM hosted a Regional Dialogue on The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) in July. The project was funded by a European Union (EU) grant. The dialogue aimed at facilitating the sharing of best practices and lessons learnt from its implementation among relevant ASEAN and OIC member states, presented by regional and international experts. SUHAKAM will continue to facilitate and pave the way forward, in anticipation of the eventual accession of UNCAT by Malaysia.

Several Ministries consulted and invited SUHAKAM to serve as members of various committees to draft and make recommendations on new bills or laws to be amended. They include sexual harassment, gender equality, employment laws, and a study on alternatives to the death penalty. SUHAKAM consistently made recommendations for law reforms in accordance with international human rights standards. In the second half of 2019, SUHAKAM participated in several consultations convened by the Minister in Prime Minister’s Department (Law), YB Datuk Liew Vui Keong, andsubmitted recommendations on a draft Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill. SUHAKAM also engaged with rule of law institutions, including the judiciary, government agencies and civil society organisations (CSOs) to partake and exchange views on law reform and human rights.

SUHAKAM welcomes the appointment of the new Chief Justice of Malaysia, The Right Honourable Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who expressed her support for continuous engagement with judgesand judicial officers on human rights issues. SUHAKAM would like more working engagements in terms of reviewing and drafting laws, especially those concerning human rights, and ideally from the early stages of any legislative process.

Since 2016, SUHAKAM has advocated for the establishment of a Custodial Medical Unit (CMU), which will operate as a mobile clinic and manned by trained medical staff on site. As a result of positive engagement with the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), the CMU programme is expected to beestablished at five centralised lockups in early 2020. In addition, SUHAKAM also collaborated with the Prisons Policy Division to undertake a thorough review and reform of the prison management system, policies and practices, including compliance with minimum standards of detention following international standards such as the Nelson Mandela Rules.

SUHAKAM completed its Public Inquiry (PI) into the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat, in December 2018. Following the announcement and release of the PI report, the Ministry of Home Affairs proceeded to form a Special Task Force to Investigate the disappearance of both individuals.

On 14 March 2019, Malaysia’s Working Group Report for the Third UPR was considered and adopted at the 40th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council. Of the 268 recommendations, Malaysia fully accepted 147 recommendations, partially accepted 37 and noted the remaining 84 recommendations. Having accepted all of the 11 UPR recommendations on People with Disabilities, the community anticipates these shall be translated into reality soon, especially on access to education, healthcare and more disabled-friendly facilities.

The main issues in Sabah relate to land matters, citizenship, and identification and/or personal legal documents. SUHAKAM has made recommendations to the authorities and sought to identify best possible solutions for various complaints received, as well as advocating for policy improvements generally. As part of SUHAKAM’s effort to find permanent solutions on statelessness, SUHAKAM signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Komnas HAM (Indonesian National Human Rights Institution) in April, which will enable the two NHRIs to assist each other across national borders.

Owing to many years of active advocacy and constant engagement with the Sabah Government, specifically the Land and Survey Department, there seemed to be notable improvements in terms of Native Customary Rights and land issues. SUHAKAM looks forward to seeing more positive changes on this front shortly.

Citizenship issues formed the majority of complaints received by the Sarawak office. They mainly relate to children’s citizenship, late registration of births or identification cards for residents in ruralareas, as well as children whose mothers are foreigners. SUHAKAM welcomed the amendment of the Land Code in 2019. It is vital to have fairer land laws to obviate the injustice suffered by natives who lack access to knowhow and the law but are forced into litigation to claim their rights. This will pave the way for Sarawak natives to proceed with more clarity and confidence in claiming their NCR rights, instead of undergoing the test of a judicial examination.

Recurrent issues faced by the Orang Asli community include the lack of access to clean water, the opening of plantations surrounding their settlements and land encroachment, and difficulty in accessing health and education services for children. SUHAKAM continued to engage with the Government, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (National Unity and National Wellbeing) YB Senator Waytha Moorthy Ponnusamy and JAKOA to seek permanent solutions to issues that affect the Indigenous Peoples (IP), especially in light of several tragic events, including the deaths of some indigenous people. SUHAKAM would also like to highlight that villagers often raise issues of access to clean water during the SUHAKAM Bersama Masyarakat events held at various rural areas throughout Malaysia.

SUHAKAM carried out a number of visits to immigration detention centres and observed that these sites were unsuitable and lacked facilities to cater for children’s needs. SUHAKAM and CSOs advocated the need to identify and implement alternatives to detention of children. SUHAKAM recommended that SOPs which relate to the detention of children should be improved, and to pilot a project whereby these children are placed within community care and civil society-run shelters.

There were several reports of incidents related to tahfiz schools throughout the year, including the death of students in a fire and allegations of physical and sexual abuse. SUHAKAM visited some tahfizschools to understand their problems. SUHAKAM also approached the state religious department to organise human rights workshops for tahfiz schools administrators. SUHAKAM also raised issues relating to tahfiz schools during meetings with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religion), YB Datuk Seri Dr. Mujahid Yusof Rawa, JAKIM and state religious authorities.

Child marriage is still an alarming issue in Malaysia. Aside from the call for the Government to raise the minimum statutory age of marriage for both men and women to 18 years, SUHAKAM also urged the Government to tackle the root causes of the issue, including increasing children’s awareness and education of their rights. There is also a need to conduct effective awareness programmes on sexual and reproductive health for the wider public.

SUHAKAM embarked on a study on discrimination against transgender persons based in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. The findings were published in March 2019. It is SUHAKAM’s view that the rights and dignity of the transgender community is no different from members of all other communities. They should be respected and protected from discrimination, harm and violence, regardless of their sexual orientation.

SUHAKAM collaborated with Fortify Rights to publish the report, ‘Sold Like Fish’. The report focuses on crimes perpetrated by human traffickers against Rohingya refugees in the sea and human trafficking camps in both Malaysia and Thailand. Survivors of these atrocities in Malaysia deserve protection under Malaysian law as survivors of human trafficking. It remains to be seen whether the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Wang Kelian, established by the Ministry of Home Affairs, will be able to identify the perpetrators and justice will be served accordingly.

SUHAKAM conducted a consultation to obtain views from relevant stakeholders and consequently made a submission to the Ministry of Human Resources, specifically on the issue of protection for jobseekers against discrimination which was being withdrawn from the Employment Act (EA). SUHAKAM issued a press statement, stating that removing the jobseekers protections from the EA amendments would allow for pre- employment discriminatory practices to continue. SUHAKAM recommends that the prohibition on discrimination under Article 8(2) Federal Constitution be upheld.

After Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law) YB Datuk Liew Vui Keong announced that Cabinet had decided that all human rights matters, including the development of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAPBHR), be placed under his ministerial portfolio, SUHAKAM provided advice and input on the initiation and development of a NAPBHR for Malaysia.

SUHAKAM reiterated its position for the repeal of the Sedition Act 1948. SUHAKAM also recommended the reinstatement of the agenda to reform laws and enforcement regulating hate speech and to comply with international human rights standards. This would ensure better respect and protection of the right to free speech as guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

SUHAKAM supports the initiatives undertaken by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Religious Affairs with the introduction of Rahmatan lil ‘Alamin and Maqasid Syariah, both of which stress the same global principles underscored for the promotion and protection of human rights. Nonetheless, SUHAKAM recognises that there is a need for further improvements in policy and administration, to strengthen public comprehension in the positive relationship between Islam and human rights in Malaysia.

SUHAKAM welcomed the government’s decision to abolish the mandatory death penalty for 11 offences under the Penal Code and the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971. SUHAKAM views this, as a step in the right direction towards the total abolition of the death penalty in this country. SUHAKAM Commissioner Dato’ Mah Weng Kwai was appointed as a member of the special committee to study and make recommendations to the Minister on alternative punishments to the death penalty and transitional measures for current death row prisoners. SUHAKAM conducted a stakeholder consultation in October to obtain views from relevant stakeholders and submitted the findings to the Law Minister.

SUHAKAM receives an annual grant from the government under the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999. Financial limitations with regard to staffing and programmes prevent SUHAKAM from undertaking or delving into a broader range of human rights issues. Taking into account the increasing demands in terms of delivering its four mandates, by and with the government, civil society and the public, there is an urgent need for the annual grant to increase in tandem.

In conclusion, SUHAKAM urges the Malaysian Government to commit to accepting more recommendations, particularly those related to the accession of the six remaining core human rights treaties and withdrawal of all reservations to the conventions which it has ratified. SUHAKAM reiterates its call to establish a Permanent Inter-Ministerial Tracking System for effective coordination on human rights issues.

Many quarters including from the Ministries, Parliamentarians and their committees, CSOs, UN agencies and Special Rapporteurs, international organisations, and ASEAN through the AICHR, have increasingly sought to engage with SUHAKAM on many fronts. Considering the broad scope of human rights issues and a growing population, which correlates with increasing human rights violations, SUHAKAM welcomes these collaborations mainly to achieve common objectives.

SUHAKAM urges the government, all politicians and parliamentarians to avoid using ‘human rights’ as a tool for political gains, but rather as an approach to right what is wrong, and as a discourse to strive for a just, respected, equitable and sustainable society where no one is left out of the equation.

Our annual report for 2019 is ready for viewing and download now. Please find the links below to read our Annual Report 2019 now.