KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 — The new Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) line-up has appealed to the public to allow the commissioners time to do their jobs.
One of the commissioners, former Malaysian Bar president Ragunanth Kesavan, said it has only been two months since their appointments.
“Let us do our jobs. It has only been two months,” he told reporters today during a press-meet.
Today’s session would be the first press conference held by the newly appointed Suhakam commissioners.
Ragunanth was responding to questions by reporters on recent criticisms, including from several rights groups, who raised concerns about “controversial appointments” that could compromise Suhakam’s work.
Among others who questioned the appointments was rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) who claimed that the appointment of Selayang Umno chief Datuk Hasnal Rezua Merican Habib Merican and Kulim Umno women’s division chief Nazira Abdul Rahman would severely compromise the neutrality of the human rights commission.
“There are no restrictions for political appointments. Whoever is an active politician, there is no requirement that you cannot have political affiliation, unlike the Bar Council.
“Whereas for the Suhakam Act 1999, there are no such restrictions. I have known them (for) many years, and they have been old lawyers and upheld the rule of law.
“I don’t think there is an issue (on) anyone serving a party... easier access to government agencies perhaps,” said Ragunanth.
He added that the new commissioners were appointed by the government and have been through select committee process.
When asked regarding the suitability of new Suhakam chief Datuk Rahmat Mohamad as the human rights commission chief, as he was reported to have advised the Conference of Rulers on the Rome Statute, Ragunanth said it was unfair to single out a person based on their previous background.
“Whatever was done, it was in the capacity as a law professor. Of course, there’s confidentiality in what was said between the parties.
“It is unfair to single out the person because of political affiliation.
“To do human rights work it would be open to everyone from all aspect of the society,” he added.
Rahmat, a professor of law at Universiti Teknologi Mara, was reported to have co-authored a paper in 2019 which convinced the Conference of Rulers to reject the ratification of the Rome Statute.
Law lecturer Prof Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal is among the eight who was reappointed after serving as Suhakam’s first Commissioner for Children in 2019.