Suhakam releases annual report, says worried about Malaysia’s direction

Child marriages are among the concerns highlighted in Suhakam’s annual report.

PETALING JAYA: Suhakam is “deeply concerned” at the direction in which Malaysia is heading and at the growing intolerance towards freedom of opinion.

Of concern, too, Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail said, was that segments of government were accommodating this intolerance.

In his review of the 2017 human rights annual report, Razali said Malaysia had not protected and promoted human rights locally as much as it seemed to champion it internationally.

Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail.

Malaysia, Razali said, was “astonishingly” not elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2018-2020 term.

His review highlighted instances of the authorities banning academic books on moderate Islam and the detention and arrest of internationally recognised Turkish scholar Mustafa Akyol on the advice of the Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department for allegedly not having religious credentials to give lectures on Islam.

He also covered discriminatory policies at universities and educational institutions on the basis of race, which he argued, could not be accepted by a government committed to moderation.

“Malaysia must be seen to be unswerving to the elimination of racial discrimination, including indirect racism in all aspects,” he said.

Razali stated that the Orang Asli remained marginalised and under constant threat of getting forced out of their ancestral lands.

They still lacked the basic right to education and were excluded from decision-making in matters that directly affected them, he said.

The review also highlighted the troubling state of non-citizens and stateless children, who are not legally allowed to receive education at Malaysian public schools.

This, he said, deprived them of their right to access quality education equally as other children.

“Equally of concern are marriages of children that remain legal although sex with a girl below the age of 16 and sexual offences against children are criminalised,” Razali said.

Suhakam maintained that marriage before the age of 18 was a fundamental violation of human rights that impacted all aspects of a child’s life, particularly girls.

“The practice of child marriage further contravenes Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals which Malaysia is committed to.”

He also said instances of torture and mistreatment within custodial settings had received specific attention by Suhakam in 2017.

“Basic necessities should always be provided to all detainees unless there is evidence that such necessities would pose a threat to a detainee’s safety or wellbeing, which is hardly the case,” Razali added.

In 2017, Suhakam had investigated 10 deaths in custody.

The report stated the need to highlight the pressing concern of torture and ill-treatment of people in police detention.

The 348-page report also outlined the progress of laws, reforms and policies.

Some of the laws and reforms reviewed in the report included laws on child marriages, the death penalty, conversion of religion due to marriage and the decriminalisation of drug use.