Press Statements

MACSA Formed to strengthen Human Rights in Malaysia

Between July and September 2017, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia (Wisma Putra) held consultations with several local civil society organisations (CSOs) primarily to explore a variety of human rights concerns in Malaysia. Human rights practices in the country had come under scrutiny following Malaysia’s participation in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a process for regularly evaluating the human rights practices of UN members initiated by the UN General Assembly in 2006.

Throughout the consultative sessions, the progress and implementation of human rights measures in Malaysia were discussed and the various CSOs in question were encouraged to be forthright about their concerns and to identify current and future challenges.

We laud and thank the Malaysian government for its openness and inclusivity in considering our views and concerns.

The scope of the consultative sessions were specifically based on the 2nd cycle of the UPR that took place four years ago, at the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva. At that time, Malaysia received a total of 232 recommendations from 104 UN Member States (out of which, 150 recommendations were accepted by the Malaysian Government, and the remaining 82 recommendations dismissed). Malaysia is therefore expected to update the UN on the progress of the implementation of the agreed upon 150 recommendations, in the third cycle of the UPR, scheduled to be held next year, in the HRC, Geneva.

Based on this scope, the consultative sessions between Wisma Putra and the CSOs in Putrajaya, involved a number of broad topics, including:-

1.Civil and Political Rights;
2.Women, Children, Persons with Disabilities and Indigenous Peoples;
3.Foreign Workers, Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Trafficked Persons;
4.National Mechanisms on Human Rights; and
5.General Recommendations, International Cooperation, Human Rights Education and Training, Enforcement Agencies, National Unity and National Cohesion.

Upon the conclusion of the aforesaid consultative sessions, various CSOs whose names are appended at the end of this statement, have decided that it is in our common interest to unite and form a coalition of CSOs with the specific aim of studying, as well as advocating, human rights issues in Malaysia for the UPR Process. It is thus with great pleasure that we announce the formation of the Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the UPR Process (MACSA).

It is MACSA’s stand that any recommendation accepted and implemented (or rejected and not implemented) by Malaysia, must, in addition to upholding international human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR) ,the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam 1990 (CDHRI) and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration 2012 (AHRD), also be in tandem with Malaysia’s own laws and customs, particularly with the Federal Constitution and the Constitutions and positions of the States existing within the Federation.

With such an aim and framework in mind, and with the generous support of the Wilayah Persekutuan Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP), MACSA will be sending a delegation of 16 human rights defenders consisting of academics, legal practitioners, a medical doctor as well as experts on various human rights subjects, to a training session on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights / Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (ICCPR/CAT) and a Research Workshop on the UPR process at the Centre International de Conférences Genéve, Switzerland, from the 18th to 24th of November 2017. This is as part of our preparation for the third cycle of the UPR Process next year, especially for the Stakeholders’ Report on Human Rights in Malaysia that is to be submitted to the HRC.

From the outset, based on our involvement in the aforementioned consultative sessions, MACSA has several issues that are of particular concern, including, but not limited to, the following:-

1. National unity must be based on the Constitution – National unity is an important element to ensuring and safeguarding human rights in Malaysia. By fostering true and real unity among the Malaysian citizens, many of the human rights issues can be resolved, especially those involving inter-ethnic, inter-religious and/or inter-cultural skirmishes.

We note with concern that certain government departments, such as the Department of national Unity and Integration (JPNIN) and National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) have been promoting national unity based on a fundamental conception; namely the notion that Malaysia is a secular country that makes no differentiation between people on the basis of religion and race, in a way that ignores our historical framework and flies in the face of clear and unequivocal provisions of the Federal Constitution. Our apex law designates Islam as the State religion (Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution) and provides for the definition of Malays as its natives within Peninsula Malaysia and other groups (such as Kadazan, Iban, Melanau, etc) as its natives within Sabah and Sarawak. These classifications are important, especially in the advocacy of indigenous rights, as well as in the implementation of Article 152 of the Federal Constitution (pertaining to national language) and Article 153 of the Federal Constitution (pertaining to the position of the Malays and the legitimate interest of other communities).

2. Children – We note that the Child Act 2001 is supposed to be an implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) but the Act itself does not give the CRC legal force within Malaysia, nor make any breach of its provisions actionable in Malaysian courts. Instead, the Act purports to implement the CRC substantially, but there is a lack of comparison between the provisions of the CRC and Child Act 2001 in particular, and whether the two really align in substance. The Government is therefore urged to come up with a comprehensive study of the two, and make appropriate amendments to the Child Act 2001 as needed.

Further, while the introduction of the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 is laudable, the presence of grammatical errors in the Act – with far reaching damaging effect – is highly regrettable. An example of such detrimental error would be Section 2(1) which provides that the Act “shall apply to a child who is under the age of eighteen years” thereby effectively leaving sexual offenders above the age of 18 years old as being precluded from the Act’s application. This clearly defeats the Act’s purpose to protect children from adult sexual offenders. Other examples abound in the Act.

3. Women – While the Government is doing much for women within the realm of policy, and is working to stem violence against women, we note that despite the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1995, the Government has yet to bring it into force within Malaysian law by enacting a comprehensive Gender Equality Act, although we note that the Government has made previous announcements on this. While we find the proposal acceptable in principle, it needs to be scrutinised to ensure that it does not come into conflict with the Shariah, and does not transgress upon the jurisdictions of the States. Malaysia has made a number of reservations to CEDAW for precisely this reason.

The plight of Muslim women who continue to be denied the freedom to wear the headscarf when being employed in particular needs to be addressed. Various businesses in Malaysia have made it common practice to prohibit their women employees from donning the headscarf at their workplace, despite this being contrary to freedom of religion, equality before the law and freedom of expression.

The decision of the Court of Appeal in Air Asia Berhad v Rafizah Shima which held that basic rights that are safeguarded in the Federal Constitution are only enforceable against a public entity, and not against a private corporation, must be addressed by way of enacting the appropriate legislations. Private corporations must be expected to uphold the basic rights of their employees, including that of freedom of religion as well as protection against discrimination on the basis of gender.

Malaysia does not have Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) to protect women’s rights in the workplace. Both the existing Employment Act 1955 and the Industrial Relations Act 1967 provide very minimal relief. Sadly, pregnant woman still has poor avenues to make their complaints heard. These complaints range from being forced to work at a site considered dangerous for pregnancies to denying them promotions, placing them on prolonged probation, demoting them and terminating their services.

4. Indigenous peoples – The progress and advancement of Malays must be included within the scope of indigenous peoples, as Malays are defined as the indigenous peoples of Malaya by the Malaysian Constitution. It would be disingenuous of the Government to provide for the progression of native Sabahans and Sarawakians, while ignoring the needs of native Malayans in Peninsula Malaysia. In this regard, the Government must do more to reclaim Malay reserve land that has been lost contrary to existing Malay Reserve Enactments and Article 89 of the Constitution. The Government must reform and update the law and policy on Malay reserve land.

With regard to non-Malay natives, of concern is the need to revive the dormant National Task Force on Aboriginals announced in 2013, which must also be urged to move ahead with substantive law reforms and on-the-ground practice changes in order to assist the aboriginals and guarantee their livelihood and live them out of poverty and isolation.

In the case of Peninsula Malaysia, perhaps a comprehensive programme or action plan on integrating the aboriginals with the mainstream Malay community, such as educational and Islamic outreach to deepen their understanding of Malay society, encouraging them to adopt Malay language, and to assimilate to Malay culture and customs – without compromising their own native culture – could be considered as a way to facilitate their integration into the modern Malay community.

5. Stateless Persons – The problem with stateless persons continues to be a serious threat to nation building that must be tackled and handled with serious care and political will, especially in the States of Sabah and Sarawak. There are reported cases of children who were born in the States of Sabah and Sarawak, but are not properly documented. These occur especially when children are born to parents who did not register their marriage, since one or both of them are of foreign citizenship. This leaves the children marginalized from the community and society. Without proper documentation, they cannot attend schools and receive proper education, and as time passes, the children grow up as vulnerable individuals. With the increased number of undocumented persons, the problem would only be compounded with a section of the community being totally cut off, with no access to the nation’s progress and development.

MACSA would like to stress that save for a few concerns that we have highlighted to the Government via our participation in the consultation sessions stated above, we are happy that the Government has drawn up comprehensive action plans to address needs associated with targeted groups on various human rights issues. MACSA is willing to offer our assistance as and when necessary to the Malaysian Government and work hand in hand in addressing and improving human rights conditions in Malaysia for the benefit of all its citizens. We hope that the participation of our delegates at the training session and Research Workshop at the Centre International de Conférences Genéve, Switzerland, would be useful in this regard.

We would also like to extend our invitation to civil society organisations across the nation to join our newly formed coalition, and let us all work together to raise the human rights practices in our country.


Azril Mohd Amin, Chief Executive, CENTHRA and Chairperson, MACSA or the Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process.

Associate Professor Dr. Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, President of The International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (WAFIQ) and Co-Chairperson, MACSA.

The Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process (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.


Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA)│Allied Coordinating Committee of Islamic NGOs (ACCIN)│Persatuan Peguam-Peguam Muslim Malaysia (PPMM) | Islamic and Strategic Studies Institute Berhad (ISSI)│Ikatan Pengamal Perubatan dan Kesihatan Muslim Malaysia (I-MEDIK)│Darul Insyirah│Pertubuhan Muafakat Sejahtera Masyarakat Malaysia (MUAFAKAT)│Persatuan Orang Cacat Penglihatan Islam Malaysia (PERTIS)│Persatuan Belia Islam Nasional (PEMBINA)│Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ)│Pertubuhan Ikatan Kekeluargaan Rumpun Nusantara (HARUM)│Gabungan Peguam Muslim Malaysia (i-PEGUAM)│Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA)│Majlis Ittihad Ummah│Pusat Kecemerlangan Pendidikan Ummah (PACU)│Persatuan Peguam Syarie Malaysia (PGSM)│CONCERN (Coalition of Sabah Islamic NGOs) | Harakah Islamiah (HIKMAH) | Lembaga Al-Hidayah | Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA) Sarawak | Halaqah Kemajuan Muslim Sarawak (HIKAM) | Pertubuhan IKRAM Negeri Sarawak | Pertubuhan Kebajikan Islam Malaysia (PERKIM) Cawangan Sarawak | Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM) Negeri Sarawak | Yayasan Ikhlas Sarawak | Persatuan Ranuhabban Akhi Ukhti (PRAU) | Ikatan Graduan Melayu Sarawak (IGMS) | Persatuan Kebangsaan Melayu Sarawak (PKMS) | Sukarelawan Al-Falah YADIM Sarawak │ Persatuan Kebajikan Masyarakat Islam Subang Jaya (PERKEMAS) │ Young Professionals │Pertubuhan Damai & Cinta Insani │ Yayasan Ihtimam Malaysia │ Persatuan Amal Firdausi (PAFI) │ Persatuan Jihad Ekonomi Muslim Bersatu Malaysia | Yayasan Himmah Malaysia (HIMMAH) | Persatuan Syafaqah Ummah (SYAFAQAH) | Gabungan Persatuan Institusi Tahfiz Al-Quran Kebangsaan (PINTA)

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