Educate people on their rights, NGO urges new Suhakam commissioner

Madeline Berma has been appointed Sarawak’s Suhakam commissioner.

KUCHING: A Sarawak NGO has called on the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) to organise workshops and courses to educate the people in the state on human rights issues.

SAVE River chairman Peter Kallang said he welcomed the appointment of Madeline Berma as Sarawak’s Suhakam commissioner and hoped she would bring changes that are beneficial to the people in the state.

He said he had been dealing with people facing land development and identity card issues and would help to connect them with other NGOs or government departments which deal with these issues.

“I hope Madeline will help to improve the situation in Sarawak during her tenure as the state Suhakam commissioner,” he said.

Kallang said Suhakam should not just be an organisation that receives complaints.

“They must also organise workshops or courses to educate the general public, especially civil society organisations, on human right issues concerning labour, women, racial and government policies.”

Peter Kallang.

He said Suhakam must also get feedback from the ground and be in touch with the people from the ground.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Women for Women Society president Margaret Bedus also supported Berma’s pledge to reach out to more people in the state, especially those in rural areas, saying that Berma is well-versed with Sarawak.

“There are a lot of people who are unaware of Suhakam.

“We had done a lot of work to educate the people on women’s rights. We found that there is a lack of exposure among the people in the interior because, most of the time, these awareness talks are done only in towns.

“Of course, we are trying our best to reach out to them but funding is often a challenge,” she said, adding that they hoped to cooperate with Suhakam to educate the people on their rights.

Earlier, Berma, 61, had pledged to educate Sarawakians on the role of Suhakam, noting that there was a stark difference in the number of complaints lodged in Sarawak and the peninsula in recent years.

She also said very often Sarawakians would go to the wrong agency with their problems, resulting in delayed solutions or complications to their problems.