PETALING JAYA: The unfulfilled promise of establishing a dedicated children’s commission, despite initial reports of progress, is disappointing, CSO Platform for Reform said.
Its chairman, Jerald Joseph, said the original plan for a standalone children’s commission – to address and prioritise children’s rights – appears to have been sidelined.
Instead, he said, the current model embeds three children’s commissioners within the existing Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).
“This is a set of general commissioners who cover all human rights issues. Now, they have put in three children’s commissioners within one commission.
“That is going to alter the balance of fair representation of all human rights in the commission,” he said at a press conference here to launch the NGO’s report, “One Year of the Unity Government”, today.
Joseph said there was a risk that children’s issues might not receive the dedicated attention and representation required as the children’s commissioners have been incorporated into a general human rights body.
He said this development represents a missed opportunity in the realm of child advocacy.
“We saw the blue paper. We gave our comments. But it is already too late as MPs have already debated and adopted it very quickly. Again, a missed opportunity.”
In September, law and institutional reform minister Azalina Othman Said said she was “delighted” to receive recommendations from child rights and civil society organisations for the drafting of the Children’s Commission Bill, which was to go before the Dewan Rakyat in October.
She said she had met key stakeholders, including talking to child commissioners overseas, and researched the issue carefully to establish an independent body to uphold the rights of all children in Malaysia.
However, on Nov 27, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 was amended to empower the office of the children’s commissioner (OCC) through the appointment of a chief children’s commissioner and two other children’s commissioners.
This was in addition to granting additional powers to Suhakam to enhance the protection of children’s rights in Malaysia.
Nevertheless, Joseph said, his group now had a better working relationship with the unity government than it did with former prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s administration.
He said this showed that the space for reform agenda discussion is more encouraging.