SHAH ALAM, 10 Jan: The action of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) to outlaw the Coalition of Malaysian Non-Governmental Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (COMANGO) reflects its failure to recognise the important role of civil society groups as part of the democratic system, as stated by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, said that the declaration of COMANGO as illegal by the Home Ministry was denying civil society groups their fundamental right to freedom of association and expression.
He said that this also undermines the efforts that the groups undertake in advocating and protecting human rights in Malaysia.
“I am disappointed and concerned with the MOHA’s statement saying that COMANGO is an illegal organisation.
“These are the fundamental rights of these civil society groups and the statement made by the ministry reflects its failure in recognising the important ‘check and balance’ role played by civil society groups in a democratic country, as proclaimed by the prime minister,” Suhakam said in a press statement today.
Suhakam called on the government as a member of the United Nations as well as the Human Rights Council, to observe and fulfill its commitment as proclaimed in the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) Resolution 12/2 which requires states to undertake measures to protect human rights defenders and prohibit all forms of intimidation or reprisal against them.
“Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights requires Member States to take measures to protect human rights defenders and to prevent any kind of intimidation or retaliation against those who do work in promoting human rights internationally.
“We also call the government to engage in consultations and dialogues in addressing the challenges of pluralism in the spirit of ‘1Malaysia’, instead of selective harassment and suppression against COMANGO and other human rights groups in this country,” it said.
Hasmy said that SUHAKAM urges the government to also review existing oppressive laws, especially the Societies Act 1966 that restricts the right of citizens to form and operate their organisations.
The Commission said any review or suspension of organisations must be done impartially, independently and in compliance with human rights principles, the very foundation of democracy.
Yesterday, COMANGO denied allegations by the MOHA that it is fighting for rights that ‘deviate from Islam’ and that MOHA’s ban against the coalition was not done in accordance with Section 5 of the Societies Act 1966. COMANGO will also file a judicial review in the High Court to quash the declaration.