We refer to Kasthuri Patto’s erroneous statement on the process of The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in an article where she attacks the newly appointed Chairman of SUHAKAM.
She claims that Malaysia’s involvement in the UPR process is somehow dependent on SUHAKAM’s grade A status within the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI).
The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations.
The UPR process involves 3 parties:
- the state
- the civil societies
- the national human rights institution (NHRI).
SUHAKAM is our NHRI.
𝗚𝗔𝗡𝗛𝗥𝗜 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴
SUHAKAM together with the NHRIs of 117 other countries are members of The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), which is a global network of national human rights institutions.
The A status given by the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) of the GANHRI is awarded to organisations that comply with the Paris Principles, a set of international standards adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 to promote the independence and effectiveness of NHRIs in promoting and protecting human rights.
However, a NHRI having an A status or B status has nothing to do with a country being allowed to participate in the UPR process, contrary to Kasthuri’s claim.
For example, the NHRI of the state of Bahrain obtained a grade B in 2016, whilst the NHRI of Bangladesh received a similar grade in 2015. Sweden’s NHRI, called the Equality Ombudsman has been graded B since 2011 and they have not bothered to subject their institution to a GANHRI assessment since then. Yet these countries still manage to successfully participate in the UPR process irrespective of their grade: the state of Bahrain in 2017, the state of Bangladesh in May 2018, and the state of Sweden in 2020.
In fact, our neighbour downsouth Singapore does not even have their own NHRI and is therefore, not a member of GANHRI. Singapore has participated in 2 UPR processes, a clear example that a GANHRI grading is not needed in the UPR process.
In reality, the civil society organisations in Singapore are still pushing for the Republic to have their own NHRI. Many do not know that only 5 ASEAN countries out of 10 members have NHRIs like SUHAKAM.
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗨𝗻𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘀𝗺 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗟𝗼𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗠𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗱𝗲𝗯𝗮𝘁𝗲
Kasthuri needs to know that the “international standards and values” she fights for are not necessarily universal values accepted by all. Many of these standards are formulated by Western countries according to their ever-changing sociocultural norms.
There’re still much to be discussed on what constitutes universal values, and Malaysia has every right to dictate our own terms and conditions instead of submitting to everything imposed upon us.
On the 7th of July this year, Malaysia joined 16 other members of the Human Rights Council in rejecting the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (IESOGI). This was due to the fact that concerns brought up and amendments proposed by the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) were not fulfilled. The OIC observed that the SOGIE resolution lacks universal consensus and has no basis in international human rights law.
We really should be more aware of the social convulsions that Western society is undergoing as we speak. These societies rejected God after the Enlightenment and declared that morality is derived from whatever Man collectively makes it out to be, as Nietzsche exclaimed: “God is Dead”. This situation has degenerated rapidly in recent years, where it seems that even singular, objective truth no longer exists. Everyone has the ‘right’ to make up their ‘own truth’ nowadays, up to the point where even self-evident truths such as the definition of a woman is up for debate. The most appalling recent example being the US Supreme Court Judge Ketanji Brown-Jackson’s inability to answer ‘what a woman is’ in her senate confirmation hearing.
The latest casualty seen in the last few days is the Church of England. Now even they have capitulated and admitted that ‘it doesn’t have a definition of a woman’, much to the dismay of Christians everywhere. Where will this end?
We urge all Malaysians to unshackle their minds from the neo-colonial chains that may still bind them, and open their eyes to these deranged ideologies being imposed upon us through the supposed respectable veneer of the human rights endeavour. We will uphold human rights according to morality as defined by God, not the whims of flighty human desires.
Malaysia will not simply agree to everything we are pressured to adopt, and this is not because we ‘do not know what is better for us’ as these neocolonial powers may patronisingly think, but because we have strong foundational principles which we will not put aside. These principles are enshrined in objective truth and we shall be holding on to them.
MACSA thus applauds the basic principles laid out by SUHAKAM’s new chairman Prof Datuk Rahmat Mohamad in steering the direction of Malaysia’s human rights discourse and welcomes the shared excitement from fellow Malaysians in all human rights discourses. MACSA believes it is only through honest, open and respectful discussions that we can move as a just and enlightened society.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR DR. RAFIDAH HANIM MOKHTAR
Co-Chairperson, Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations (MACSA)
MACSA is a coalition of civil society organisations with the specific aim and object to look into, as well as advocate, human rights issues in Malaysia for the UPR Process.
Also published in NST