Two parliamentary innovations if Abdullah is serious about Parliament's
role vis-à-vis Suhakam and human rights - establish an all-party
parliamentary committee on human rights and an annual debate on Suhakam
by Lim Kit Siang
Tuesday): The Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said yesterday that the government had never stopped
debates on human rights issues in Parliament and that if discussions are
raised, the government would give a reply.
Commenting on statements that Suhakam reports and proposals are not given
attention or debated in the Dewan Rakyat, Abdullah said that what was
important was that the proposals must be constructive to be given attention
and for action to be taken.
Abdullah was not giving a true picture and was only trying to gloss over the
shabby treatment of Suhakam reports and recommendations by both the
government and Parliament.
In the first place, Members of Parliament of Barisan Nasional despite its
overwhelming two-thirds majority are distinguished by the total and
unadulterated indifference and disinterest about human rights in general and
Suhakam in particular.
Issues raised by Opposition MPs in Parliamrent are invariably ignored or at
most given inconsequential responses.
A classic example is the recent budget debate during the committee stage of
the Foreign Ministry, which is responsible for Suhakam, on October 24, 2002.
The only MP to speak on the Suhakam reports and recommendations was the DAP
MP for Tanjong, Chow Kon Yeow, who in the 10 minutes allotted to him, raised
what the Musa Hitam Suhakam regarded as its "two major proposals" at the end
of its two-year term, viz:
- Recommendations for amendments to the Human Rights Commission of
Malaysia Act 1999 to address the limitations and ambiguities of the
existing law on Suhakam; and
- Proposal for the government to start developing a National Human
Rights Plan of Action to help improve the promotion and protection of
human rights in Malaysia by placing human rights improvements in the
context of public policy. This is to enable the government and the civil
society to endorse human rights improvements as practical goals, devise
programmes and allocate resources to achieve the National Human Rights
Plan of Action, covering areas such as the ratification of international
standards, an improved rule of law, a better functioning electoral system,
improved linkage between human rights and development and protection of
The response given by the Deputy Foreign Minister, Dr. Leo Michael Toyad,
to Chow's speech was a total wash-out, throwing no light whatsoever on the
two "major proposals" of the Musa Hitam Suhakam.
Is Abdullah able to enlighten the Malaysian public with regard to the
government's position on these two major proposals out of a long list of
recommendations which have been made by the Musa Hitam Suhakam?
As Abdullah said that what was important was that the Suhakam proposals must
be constructive to be given attention and for action to be taken, can
Abdullah direct that a full list of the Musa Hitam Suhakam proposals in the
past two years be made public, with the government ticking off as to whether
each proposal qualifies the government's assessment of being "constructive"
and the status of the government's action on such "constructive" proposals?
If Abdullah is serious about the government and Parliament's role vis-à-vis
Suhakam and human rights, then he should introduce two parliamentary
innovations, viz: the establishment of an all-party parliamentary committee
on human rights to monitor the human rights situation in the country and an
annual parliamentary debate on Suhakam reports. This will be pro-active good
governance in action. The ball is in Abdullah's court.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National