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Parliament gives Suhakam more bite

Publish date: Thu, 30 Nov 2023, 09:11 AM

“WE need to grow its teeth first before it can have fangs.”

This was expression used by Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said on amendments to give the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) more bite and dispel the notion that it was a toothless tiger.

“These (amendments) are a new step for us. We all agree that we want a Suhakam with teeth, but before the teeth turn to fangs, we have to first grow its teeth.

“And this is what we are doing now and maybe in 20 years’ time, the teeth would have become long fangs,” she said when winding up debates on amendments to the Suhakam Act.

The amendments were passed yesterday after they were tabled on Monday.

She drew thumps of approval from the floor after informing MPs that these were the first amendments to Suhakam in over 20 years since the watchdog was first formed in 1999.

Azalina added that the amendments would allow Suhakam to tackle alleged human rights abuses in the private sector.

“The issue of human rights abuse is not confined to enforcement agencies as is usually thought.

“Human rights are also being flouted by the private sector,” she said.

Azalina cited her own experience involving some 2,300 stranded Bangladesh workers in her Pengerang parliamentary constituency in Johor.

“They have been there for two months with no money to eat.

“Some suggested they ask me to give them food because I am Pengerang MP besides being in charge of Suhakam.

“I am torn because I will be scolded if I don’t provide them with food,” she said before asking Human Resources Minister V. Sivakumar, who was present in the House to take note of their plight.

Among the key amendments was expanding Suhakam’s powers to visit “any place of detention, institution or other place.”

She said this would allow Commissioners to visit other places apart from jails and detention centres.

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