Thursday, May 04, 2006

Suhakam Tigers Face Extinction

Suhakam tigers face extinction
Charles Hector
Apr 7, 06 4:45pm (Malaysiakini)

Suhakam is not a toothless tiger as long as we still have few human rights commissioners like Prof Mohd Hamdan Adnan there. When Suhakam first came into being, there were more commissioners with teeth like Mehrun Siraj and Musa Hitam. As time went on, more and more of the independent and brave commissioners were just not re-appointed. The term of this present batch comes to end this month, and maybe Prof Mohd Hamdan Adnan and some of the other stronger and more vocal commissioners will not be reappointed, and then Suhakam will become a true toothless tiger.

Who is the chairman of Suhakam? Why did he not come out and make a response to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz’s recent statements on the non-powers of Suhakam? Come to think of it, we have not heard much from that former attorney-general who is the current chairman of Suhakam. It is time for Suhakam to have a new chairman, someone who does not have a government servant mentality. Suhakam, as creature of an Act of Parliament, must be independent and that includes being independent of the government of the day. A commissioner must be fearless, a person who works and does things for the promotion of human rights and to ensure that all parties (including) the government of the day respects human rights.

In other countries, appointment as a human rights commissioner is for a term of at least six years, not two years as is in Malaysia. This short two-year term may be what is keeping the other commissioners quiet and docile in that they will stand a better chance of re-appointment if they are not troublemakers. We do not need people with this kind of attitude appointed as commissioners. We need fearless persons willing to risk all for the cause of human rights. In Malaysia, it may be a bit difficult to find such persons but it is not impossible if we really want Suhakam to be effective and not just a window-dressing .

It is also important that Suhakam commissioners are full-time and not just part-timers who spend most of their time with their other work and other businesses. It may be very difficult to find persons who are willing to give up their present jobs and businesses to just serve a two-year term but then if it was for a six-year term, you will have more who would be willing to serve as full-time commissioners.

In another 20 days or so, we will know whether Suhakam will finally become a toothless tiger, or whether the tiger will get more teeth. Who will be re-appointed? Who will be asked to leave? By the end of the month, we will find out what kind of people our present prime minister wants in the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia.

**Hamdan is among two others, Ramon V Navaratnam and Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hassan Shahabudin, whose contracts were not renewed - Malaysiakini 3/5/2006

No comments: