Suhakam urges govt not to ignore public engagement on 3 new Bills

Esther Landau

KUALA LUMPUR: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has called on the government not to ignore public engagement on the three new Bills aimed at curbing racial and religious hatred in the country.

Its chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said they were surprised that the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, had ignored the need for public and stakeholder consultations on these proposed laws.

The three new Bills that will be tabled in the parliament soon are the Anti-Discrimination Act, National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission Act and the Religious and Racial Hatred Act.

“Despite the new government’s claims of commitment to openness and transparency that are central pillars of effective governance, the Pakatan Harapan government, not unlike its predecessor, has not demonstrated any step to institutionalise a framework for meaningful public engagement in law-making.

“Suhakam reiterates that the public should be invited to give feedback on the draft Bills through online or other platforms for a fixed duration, as in the case of many democracies around the world.

“There has been no opportunity to consider the compatibility of the proposed legislation with human rights norms, which is at odds with the government’s promise to make ‘Malaysia’s human rights record respected by the world’, (Buku Harapan Promise 26),” he said through a statement issued here today.

He also hoped that the government would not carry the negative past practices by the previous government under the Barisan Nasional to ignore the need for public consultations in a democractic parliament.

Razali also praised the government for taking steps in addressing the rising extremist sentiments in the country.

However, he said these laws must be fully considered for racial and religious harmony; moderation and tolerance.

“Whether the proposed laws will include active measures to remove the existing causes of discrimination in Malaysia, such as racial discrimination in the education sector, is uncertain,” he added. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd