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SUARAM expresses its concern and disappointment over the recent appointments of Suhakam chairman and commissioners.
We are of the view that these appointments made by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob do not reflect the independence and core values of Suhakam as the national human rights institution (NHRI) of Malaysia.
The opaque and controversial appointments of the commissioners are all the more disappointing given that Malaysia has recently secured a seat in the United Nations Human Rights Council pledging to the international body that it will uphold human rights issues.
Suaram has strong doubts that newly appointed Suhakam chairman Rahmat Mohamad could carry out his duties to fulfil Suhakam’s mandate.
He was reported to have opposed Malaysia from ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as he was one of the four academics who co-authored a paper that convinced the Conference of Rulers in rejecting it.
The paper was instrumental in forcing the then Pakatan Harapan government to pull out from ratifying it, which undermines Malaysia’s commitment in the global peacekeeping mission.
The academic views of Rahmat on the Rome Statute might adversely affect Suhakam’s mandate because as it was stated in the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act, one of the main functions of Suhakam is to make recommendations to the government with regard to the subscription or accession of treaties and other international human rights instruments.
Secondly, the two other new commissioners were publicly known to be strongly affiliated with Umno.
Hasnal Rezua Merican Habib Merican is the Selayang Umno branch chairman and Nazira Abdul Rahim is the chairman of women division at Kulim and Bandar Baharu Umno and the local councillor appointed by her party for Bandar Baharu.
Suaram maintains that the chairman and commissioners should be politically neutral to ensure Suhakam remains an institution independent of political influence and, therefore, is able to discharge its duties without fear and favour.
By appointing two commissioners with substantial political influence, Suaram is worried that the power given to Suhakam to inquire into human rights complaints and assist the government in human rights legislation would be severely compromised.
For instance, if the Umno government is allegedly involved in human rights violation, questions would be rightly asked on Suhakam’s ability to hold an inquiry independently and whether the findings would be credible in the eyes of the public and civil society.
Lastly, the appointment of the former director-general of the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) Mohamad Nordin Ibrahim also raises more questions.
Jakim had previously demanded answer from Suhakam regarding the recognition of a third gender research project and Suaram is concern whether appointing a former Jakim director-general would again hamper Suhakam’s ability to conduct research that may prove to be sensitive and controversial to the executive branch, but completely align with Suhakam’s core objective in defending and promoting human rights in Malaysia.