KUALA LUMPUR: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) today criticised the youth and sports ministry for giving in to public pressure and letting go of an interim press officer who is also a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist.
Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail said the resignation of Numan Afifi due to backlash over his LGBT non-discrimination activism or sexual orientation was “extremely troubling” as Article 8 of the Federal Constitution provided equality for all citizens.
Numan, who quit as Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman’s press officer on July 9, had said: “The backlash and threats from opposition propagandists have made it impossible for me to exercise my duties, therefore I have decided not to work at the ministry in any official capacity.”
Razali said it was unfortunate that the ministry had not taken a “principled stand” on the matter “when it should have assessed and evaluated the officer on his skills, qualifications, and ability to contribute to the ministry and our country”.
“The officer was instead deemed to be unfit for the position based solely on his sexual orientation, which is a characteristic completely irrelevant to job performance.”
He said Suhakam was concerned that this might be a case of workplace or employment discrimination which “seems to be continuing in the public and private sectors, and will result in job insecurity for LGBT people, making it difficult for them to provide for themselves and their dependents”.
Razali said Suhakam had also received complaints from the LGBT community of violations of human rights, including harassment and ill-treatment, sexual assault, and denial of employment and education opportunities as well as medical treatment, and workplace discrimination.
He said he regretted that “the hangover of the past is still lingering among new leaders, including the younger ones and hopes that the new government will find a way to develop a national conscience to protect society’s most vulnerable and to stand up for everyone while upholding principles of equality and non discrimination”.
Social media users, including Umno Supreme Council member Lokman Noor Adam, and some preachers, had criticised Syed Saddiq for hiring Numan, who made headlines last year after organising a “gay iftar”.
Syed Saddiq then clarified that he had yet to officially hire anyone to be his special officer, despite the ministry’s website listing Numan as a special officer to the minister.
Numan meanwhile told FMT that he was only helping the minister with press matters until a press secretary was hired and that Syed Saddiq was looking for people to join his team.