Activists want civil rights education in Budget

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KUALA LUMPUR: Human rights activists want Putrajaya to reverse its poor record with allocations for civil rights education and activities in Budget 2015 to show its commitment in fostering civil liberties in Malaysian society.

Activists singled out the police, calling for the force’s exposure to other countries where enforcement officers practised civil rights in the course of their duties, and also suggested introducing the subject in schools. Yet, others noted that such commitment on paper would be meaningless without political will.

The Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) feels the upcoming budget should have specific mention of allocations for civil society that undertakes human rights promotion and training work.

Its secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria said this will show civil servants that the administration is committed to human rights, instead of dismissing it as the rhetoric of government critics.

“The federal government provides funds for social welfare, consumer and women-based organisations. However, those working on human rights and the environment are often viewed as anti-establishment. There must be this clear change in public policy approach.

“A specific mention (in the budget) will be useful and timely in the current global climate of increased radicalisation of religion and the global terrorist movement undertaken in the name of religion,” he said.

Nisha Ayub, spokesperson for transgender rights group Justice for Sisters, said education is sorely needed to create awareness about the community. “Education starts from home and we need more information regarding transgender [people] so that families can give the necessary support if one of their own is a transgender person,” she said.

Pusat Komas board member Jerald Joseph suggested that a human rights education syllabus be introduced in schools. He also said enforcement agencies such as the police and court officials should be exposed to human rights training in collaboration with the United Nations. “Cut down the budget for Special Branch and reallocate the staff resources there for crime prevention. Spend more research funds for developing a human rights discourse,” he said.

Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen noted that political will is paramount if there is to be an improvement in Malaysia’s human rights record.

“How do we deal with serious human rights abuses perpetrated by the police especially custodial deaths?”

Paulsen said that the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission, which the government has rejected in favour of an integrity commission, was still the best available solution. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 8, 2014.