PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has been left “paralysed” as the government has yet to appoint a new chairman and commissioners.
Suhakam’s most recent chairman, Razali Ismail, resigned two weeks before the end of his tenure. This was in the wake of the commission’s inquiry into missing persons where it accused the police of being involved in their abductions.
The tenure of the seven Suhakam commissioners, who sit at the very top of the organisation, came to an end on April 25.
“Under the Suhakam Act, it’s the commissioners that decide on matters, not the chair.
“There’s still no announcement yet of the appointment of all the commissioners, including the chair,” a source with knowledge on the matter told FMT.
The terms of the seven commissioners – Lok Yim Pheng, Mah Weng Kwai, Aishah Bidin, Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh, Francis Johen, Godfrey Gregory Joitol and Jerald Joseph – was for three years from 2016.
“Without commissioners, it can’t really function. Even last term, the appointment of the commissioners was delayed by two months,” the source said.
According to the source, the delay in appointing new commissioners is not justified as the closing date for applications was November 2018 and a selection committee met earlier this year.
“The committee’s vetting and decision must be made public for greater transparency, as must the selection criteria. The commissioners must have the competency and experience,” the source said.
Suhakam is empowered by the Suhakam Act to advise the government and relevant authorities of complaints against them and to recommend appropriate measures to be taken, verify any infringement of human rights and issue public statements on human rights as and when necessary.
It is also empowered to visit places of detention in accordance with procedures as prescribed by laws relating to the places of detention and make necessary recommendations.
When contacted, a Suhakam spokesman confirmed that the new commissioners have yet to be appointed.
FMT is attempting to contact Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong for comments.