I was most disappointed when I read this news report - I expected more from Edmund Bon..
Has Edmond Bon become an apologist for the Malaysian Government? In a recent, news report, he explains (or rather justifies) why Malaysia has not moved in improving the human rights standards in Malaysia...the blame seems to be placed on 'agencies that are supposed to implement...". Well, for me, this is lame and cannot excuse Prime Minister Najib and the BN government...
Edmond Bon was a human rights lawyer, and even still is a sitting member of the Malaysian Bar Council, and as such I would have expected more...and still do have hope in Edmond Bon.
I must say that I was rather 'shocked' when Edmond accepted this appointment as AICHR rep at this time from the BN government of PM Najib.
This appointment was far from being appointed as a Human Rights Commissioner( which allowed the appointee the freedom and the capacity to act independently for the promotion and protection of Human Rights..) but an AICHR[Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights] rep is merely a Malaysian government representative in an ASEAN committee/sub-committee.. Like government representative, he will only be seen to be speaking for and on behalf of Malaysia...and maybe that explains the media report...
One must remember that the Malaysia's immediate past AICHR representative, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, did take a position to abolish the death penalty despite Malaysia's own official position was to maintain not just the death penalty but also the mandatory death penalty...[We also know of Nazri, a Minister, who made public his personal position for the abolition of the death penalty]
Maybe, Edmund Bon should be also taking public stands on human rights - rather than just playing the role of Malaysia's apologist justifying Malaysia's failure in the field of human rights.
Recently, even in when Malaysia's Kho Jabing was facing the death penalty in Singapore, one would have expected our new AICHR rep to have come out with a stand - more so since he is a lawyer and member of the Malaysian Bar who has the clear position for the abolition of the death penalty....but there seems to be only silence...WHY?
Well, then we had the case of Maria Chin's being barred from traveling - and, yet again our new AICHR rep said nothing..
Well, we may have lost a potential human rights defender - or maybe we may have just lost Edmund Bon, who after being appointed by Najib-led government - will be no more be interested in highlighting Malaysia's own human rights violation - let alone making a public position from a human rights perspective on such rights violations...
AICHR reps like Edmund Bon, compared to civil servants, do not really depend on the government for economic survival - and hence should be braver about pointing out the actions of the Malaysian government that violate human rights...
If he has already been 'compromised' or is more concerned about the 'position', then Edmund Bon will not help improve the situation of human rights in Malaysia, let alone ASEAN..
We shall see...we shall hope...and only the future will decide how we judge Edmund Bon?
Well Edmund Bo, be aware that for Malaysia - it not just a question of delay in improving Human Rights situation - but a case of deteriorating human rights situation...the latest NEW violation was the not allowing of Maria Chin to leave the country...???
Considering the state of HR in Malaysia itself, a Malaysian rep trying to promote HR rights in ASEAN may be seen as a 'joke' - Maybe, Edmund Bon, in protest to these ever increasing violations of human rights should just RESIGN - and that maybe the best he could do for the cause of Human Rights and Justice...Or maybe take public positions about HR violations in Malaysia, until this current government is forced to find another rep..
Govt's human rights moves 'getting stuck' with agencies
The government’s efforts to improve human rights standards in the country are being stalled by the agencies that are supposed to implement them, said a local rights representative.
Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) Malaysia representative Edmond Bon said since Malaysia’s last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council in 2013, Wisma Putra had made recommendations that Malaysia should sign up to more human rights conventions, drop its reservations on the conventions that it has already signed, and improve its human rights standards.
“But then what happens is that when it comes back, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prepares a paper, lists out the issues and problems, and then there is an implementing agency that it goes to, and it is stuck there.
“Or, they would say you need to refer this to the Attorney-General’s Chambers, but the Attorney-General’s Chambers, as I understand it, they have so much on their plate that they don’t have the capacity to handle this.
“And then nothing moves. If nothing moves, then nothing goes to the cabinet,” he told an informal meeting in Kuala Lumpur hosted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Malaysia (FCCM) last night.
The same also happens with the Malaysian Human Rights Commission’s (Suhakam) recommendations, which has made little progress after the papers are sent to the relevant agencies.
Bon said this is what he learned since he was appointed as Malaysia’s AICHR representative on April 1, where he has been engaging with various agencies to take stock of Malaysia’s position on international human rights treaties.
Disconnect among the agencies
“I find that there is sort of a disconnect (among the agencies), and this is sometimes accidental; it is not by design,” he added.
He said Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Paul Low is looking into these hurdles in hopes of expediting the process.
Malaysia has thus far ratified three out of the nine UN core human rights instruments: those concerning the rights of persons with disabilities, the rights of children, and discrimination against women.
The six that Malaysia has not signed include those that deal with torture, civil and political rights, enforced disappearance, racial discrimination, economic, social, and cultural rights, and the protection of migrant workers.
The UPR process occurs in cycles lasting approximately four years through meetings at the UN Office in Geneva, Switzerland. Malaysia’s human rights record will be up for review again in 2018.
During the last review, where each of the 104 countries present had 75 seconds to grill Malaysian representatives, many had urged Malaysia to sign and ratify the six remaining human rights instruments, and to drop its reservations on the conventions that it has already ratified.
Meanwhile, back in the Asean region, Bon conceded that AICHR had been focused on human rights promotion rather than protection, during its past six years of existence.
However, things are beginning to change.
This is in part due to a new line of AICHR representatives who have been appointed, including Bon, as their predecessors’ terms came to its two-term limit.
AICHR representatives are appointed for three-year terms.
‘Give AICHR a chance’
The last meeting in Jakarta in April had been promising, with each country agreeing to undertake at least one project.
Malaysia will be dealing with issues related to freedom of expression this year, and the people’s right to water and sanitation next year.
In particular, Bon said he is tasked with drafting an explanatory note for Article 23 of the Asean Human Right Declaration, which pertains to freedom of opinion and expression, which he intends to finish by July.
This would include issues such as the enabling environments for media practitioners to work in, regulations, censorship, and the protection of media practitioners and sources.
“We will issue a general comment (on Article 23), and if (all) ten AICHR representatives accept it, that is the standard for Asean,” he said.
He explained that once Asean members have agreed to a set of standards, then the floor is open to start talking about human rights protection.
However if even one country objects, then the draft would not be accepted. This, he said, had contributed to AICHR being paralysed over the past six years.
Nevertheless, Bon urged for patience and to give AICHR a chance.
“When the inter-American human rights system started, when the European system started, when the African system started; they started out as commissions.
“It started way back, a long time ago, just giving comments. Then they moved on to monitoring, then moved on to interventions, and then moved on to being a court.
“So in the Asean context especially with its consensus-based way of doing things, we must give it a chance,” he said.