Appoint new commissioners for Suhakam now, NGO urges govt

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia has been without a chairman and commissioners for over a month now.

PETALING JAYA: A civil society group has urged the government to fill the vacancies in the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) without further delay following the expiration of term of its previous commissioners more than a month ago.

Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody Together chairman M Visvanathan said the gap between appointments reflects badly on the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government and its efforts to prove that it takes human rights issues seriously.

“It does not instil confidence in the people, especially when there are no commissioners around to receive and investigate public complaints,” he told FMT.

In fact, he added, just two weeks ago, only the Suhakam executive secretary had been present to receive a complaint from a 30-year-old man who claimed he was tortured during an investigation at the Sentul police headquarters last month.

Suhakam was established by Parliament under the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999, with a mandate to protect, promote and monitor human rights in Malaysia.

Under the Suhakam Act, a selection committee chaired by the chief secretary submits a list of candidates for the prime minister to consider and recommend to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

In its manifesto, PH said Suhakam commissioners would be appointed through a parliamentary committee.

The previous Suhakam chairman, Razali Ismail, resigned from office on April 16, almost two weeks before the end of his term on April 27.

Others whose terms lapsed were Loke Yim Pheng, Mah Weng Kwai, Aishah Bidin, Salida Suhaila Nik Salleh, Francis Johen, Godfrey Gregory Joitol and Jerald Joseph.

Commissioners’ terms run for three years. The last round of appointments was made in July 2016 and backdated to April that year.

At that point, Suhakam had been without a chairman and commissioners for 58 days. A similar situation in 2013 saw a delay in appointment of 38 days.

Visvanathan, who is also a lawyer, said the lack of new appointments had put Suhakam in limbo.

He added that PH appeared to be following in the steps of the previous Barisan Nasional government in only appointing Suhakam members after a gap in time.