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Khoo Ying Hooi

Malaysia is on its way for the re-election to the United Nations Human
Rights Council (HRC) next Thursday, 13 May. Lately, the Malaysian
government has apparently been busy boosting its human rights
image in the international level. After the diplomacy exercise on the
newly-established Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in February and
June 2009, Malaysia is now back in action to prove its human rights
record to the world. We have yet to see the concrete follow-up actions
by the government in many areas as promised.

The HRC consists of 47 member-states elected by the majority of the

members of the General Assembly. The voluntary pledges and
commitments declared by the Malaysian government dated 9 March
2010 contained repetitions of the former pledges made to the HRC
(formerly the Commission on Human Rights) in 2006.

On May 3, media freedom report issued by Freedom House ranked

Malaysia as not free putting it behind neighbours Philippines,
Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia. It is ironic that Malaysia is just a
footstep away from securing itself to the HRC for its second term:
2010-2013. The last minute pull out of Tehran left Malaysia with no
competitors together with Maldives, Qatar and Thailand for the 4 Asian

The main issue, in general, the Malaysians are not well aware with the
UN mechanisms and how it works as well as its effect to the country.
Becoming a candidate for membership on the HRC will put more
pressure on the government to do better at home, but Malaysia has
apparently failed to do so during its 2006-2009 term. It is timely for the
Malaysian government to seriously thinking of educating the public on
human rights if it was sincere in its bid to the HRC. Afterall, it is the
people that matters. The government has been busy impressing the
world on its human rights record. But what does it mean? Does the
membership to the HRC guarantee the protection of human rights to
the people? Certainly not. The laymen are not either concern nor
aware with these mechanisms. This is the time to translate those
commitments to action in the national level.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) in the past has

constantly made suggestion on the need for the government to have a
National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP). Yet, the government has
not shown any keenness it towards this effort despite its fancy
commitments in the international level. The February 2009 UPR review
on Malaysia has also placed an emphasis on the merits of NHRAP to
augment a states human rights standing. Such Plan for Malaysia will
provide a fundamental reference and guidance for action on many
human rights issues and will at least raise the human rights awareness
among the general public. A number of countries in the Asia Pacific
region have established such Plans. In the Southeast Asia region itself,
3 countries with existing national human rights institutions have
established their Plans, i.e. Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines.

So does Malaysia deserve to sit in for another term in the HRC? In the
ground, it is a straight no. Has there been once, the government shows
sincerity in its promotion and protection to the human rights in the
country? Deep in our heart, we already know the answer.

May 2010