Suaram raps PH for being slow in making human rights reforms

Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy regrets NGOs are not being included in discussions on new policies and decision-making by the government.

KUALA LUMPUR: Taking over the federal government was a chance for Pakatan Harapan to bring about reforms but there is still much to do, says Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) executive director Sevan Doraisamy.

Although changes to economic policies were swift with the abolition of the goods and services tax (GST), the PH government seems to be slow when it comes to critical reforms on civil and political rights, he said.

This year, the Suaram Human Rights Report 2018 found that the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) and Prevention of Crime Act 1960 (Poca) were applied widely up till the 14th general election.

“There is a notable decline in the application of these laws following the dissolution of several task forces within the Royal Malaysia Police.

“However, many of those detained are still languishing in detention with no fair trial afforded,” Sevan said.

“The trend of police intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and activists continues, with the deputy home minister defending police action in investigating human rights defenders and activists for public assemblies and handing over of memoranda to government agencies,” he said during the presentation of the Suaram Human Rights Report 2018.

Regarding child marriages, the report noted several cases involving violation of child rights where minors were married off to adults. Sevan said although Suaram’s early concerns had been remedied, the underlying violations regarding sexual grooming remained unaddressed.

“No action was adopted by the PH government despite human rights NGOs’ recommendations for a moratorium to be imposed on draconian laws, pending the amendment and repeal of these laws.

“The eventual implementation of a moratorium, followed by the sudden withdrawal of the moratorium, has cast doubts on the conviction of the PH government in this matter,” he said.

It was reported that the Cabinet, at its meeting last Friday, had decided to withdraw the moratorium on the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca), Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), Sedition Act and Security Offences Special Measures Act (Sosma) to deal with the recent riots at the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in USJ25 in Subang Jaya.

Juveniles detained under Poca, Pota

Sevan said Suaram had taken up the case of 142 juveniles, detained under Poca and Pota. It had asked former home minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to release them if they could not find evidence to charge them in court.

“One of the boys, a 16-year-old, is still being detained under Poca. He was detained for being an eyewitness to a death in custody.

“We propose the same to the current government — charge them or release them if they can’t find evidence to charge them.”

Sevan claimed PH is still acting like the former BN administration where they make decisions without public consultation.

“There are some improvements but when it comes to the decision making process, it is still being made in a vacuum.”

He said the government seemed reluctant to include NGOs and civil society groups in consultations prior to policy planning or decision making.

“We even fought for other human rights NGOs to be invited to these meetings.

“Failure to engage with civil society and build public discourse prior to the announcement of policy plans have led to substantial backlashes, such as the decision to ratify ICERD and the abolition of the death penalty,” he said.