Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Let’s debate on Suhakam reports, says Nazri | Free Malaysia Today

Let’s debate on Suhakam reports, says Nazri

Patrick Lee | October 23, 2012
Suhakam's reports have never been debated in Parliament, leading to the perception that the human rights commission is a 'toothless tiger'. But the minister wants this to change.
KUALA LUMPUR: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz today mooted the idea of discussing Malaysian Human Right Commission (Suhakam’s) reports in Parliament.

He acknowledged that though Suhakam had been sending its reports to Parliament for many years, MPs had not debated on its contents.

“I agree that Suhakam’s reports have not been debated before, and it’s not fair to them,”  he told the Dewan Rakyat.

Nazri was responding to a query by DAP-Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran who raised Suhakam’s perception as a “toothless tiger”.

At the same time, Nazri said that Parliament should not stop there.

He added that there needed to be a permanent committee to address issues raised by Suhakam, much like the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

Despite being in existence since 2000, none of Suhakam’s reports have ever been debated in Parliament.
Kulasegaran also compared Suhakam’s role to that of foreign equivalents, such as South Africa’s Human Rights Commission, which he said had regulatory powers.

He also said that countries such as India and Indonesia had specific Human Rights Courts, promising that if Pakatan Rakyat were to take over, it would set up these courts here as well.

Nazri however denied that Suhakam was a “toothless tiger”, adding that the role of the commission was not to take action against human rights violations.

“Suhakam can’t arrest people. If a person needs to be arrested, then it must be reported to the police,” he said.

Powers of Suhakam commissioners

He added that Suhakam also did not have the power to amend Malaysia’s laws. However, he noted the commission’s influence, adding that its criticism of the Internal Security Act (ISA) led to the law’s repealing by the government.

Nazri was originally responding to a query by UPKO-Putatan MP Marcus Mojigoh who asked if Suhakam’s members received any kind of support from the government.

Citing the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999, Nazri said that Suhakam was protected against any kind of legal or civil action in the course of their work.

Later, Mojigoh asked about the implications of giving these members immunity, which he feared could give the opposition ammunition to overthrow the government.

To this, Nazri said that he did not think that Suhakam was capable of such a feat. He added that the government had no intention to “clip the wings” of these commissioners, even if they were going to criticise the government.

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