Suhakam says been operating in the red for past few years

R. Loheswar
Datuk Lok Yum Pheng, Prof Datuk Aishah Bidin, Jerald Joseph, Datuk Mah Weng Kwai and Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh pose with copies of the Suhakam annual report in Kuala Lumpur April 19, 2019. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) revealed today that it has been operating on a budget deficit for the past few years, as Putrajaya failed to fund its operations.

One of its commissioners Jerald Joseph said the commission needs roughly RM16 million a year to function properly, but was only allocated RM10 million annually.

“We have 82 staff, eight commissioners and three offices in Kuala Lumpur, Sabah and Sarawak who conduct many activities and we need roughly RM16 million,” he told the press after the launching Suhakam’s annual report here.

He said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been informed about the matter.

“We got RM10 million in previous years and actually for last year’s budget, we got RM10 million as well. But after meeting Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, he added an additional RM2 million.

“So if we meet him more often, maybe he will add some more,” he added, jokingly.

Suhakam currently does not have a permanent office and is renting a space at Menara TH Perdana in Kuala Lumpur. It is hoping for a location in central Kuala Lumpur rather than Putrajaya.

In 2015, the Barisan Nasional administration slashed Suhakam’s budget for 2016 from around RM10 million to just RM5.5 million — inviting backlash from human rights defenders.

Section 19(1) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 requires the government to provide the commission with adequate funds annually to enable it to discharge its functions under the Act.

Suhakam was established as a national human rights institution by Parliament to educate the public on human rights, attend to complaints and carry out inquiries, among others.

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