PETALING JAYA: An academic has urged the government to strengthen Suhakam so that it can effectively play its role as Malaysia’s human rights watchdog.
Denison Jayasooria, the principal research fellow at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies, said there was a need to give meaning to Suhakam’s work by changing the law to give it the power to compel witnesses to cooperate in its inquiries.
Speaking to FMT, he complained that the findings of the commission were typically ignored by enforcement and judicial authorities.
As evidence of Suhakam’s inability to compel cooperation from witnesses, he cited the ongoing inquiries into the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh and social activist Amri Che Mat.
He noted that police officers subpoenaed to testify could not be forced to produce key documents. During a hearing last Nov 3, for example, ASP Supari Muhammad refused to furnish details of the site where Koh had been abducted, saying such information was protected under the Official Secrets Act.
“Suhakam should have the power to compel the police to assist in inquiries just like a court does because commissioners who oversee these inquiries are like magistrates,” he said.
He also said inquiry findings were in most cases not acted on by the police.
“There must be changes to the law to compel the police to act on decisions made at the inquiries,” he said. “If they do not act on a decision, they must disclose to the public the reasons why.”
Jayasooria also suggested that Suhakam be given the power to prosecute.
“Right now the commission can only recommend to the attorney-general to act on its findings, but has no further power,” he noted.