Home Civil Society Voices Urgent need for independent children’s commission

Urgent need for independent children’s commission

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We, the undersigned child advocates and civil society organisations for children, urge the government to expeditiously establish an independent children’s commission that will promptly act on issues affecting children, as well as safeguard, uphold and promote child rights.

The pandemic has revealed serious and systemic gaps in the care and protection of children; which have yet to be dealt with and resolved. A single commissioner for children under [the national human rights commission] Suhakam does not have the necessary time, authority and resources to effectively address these gaps and guide the government on how to prioritise resource allocations to ensure the wellbeing of children. The time to act is now; we must stop failing our children.

An independent children’s commission which reports directly to Parliament will enable all parliamentarians to have oversight over children in Malaysia. Monitoring their rights and progress is fundamental to the growth and future of our nation and society. Should today’s leaders fail our children, that is a failure of stewardship of the nation’s future leaders, voters and workforce.

An independent, adequately funded children’s commission, comprising commissioners with expertise in issues affecting children and staff, would be able to support ministries, departments and agencies by providing much-needed expertise to strengthen policies, processes and procedures.

Lawmakers, ministers and civil servants who are subjected to transfers cannot be expected to be subject matter experts. A children’s commission, with commissioners who have a strong grasp of the realities of diverse groups of children in marginalised circumstances, would be in a position to examine the impact of laws, policies and procedures on children.

The proposed commissioners would also be able to articulate effectively recommendations that align laws, policies and procedures with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and two of its three optional P]rotocols that Malaysia has ratified, as well Malaysian legislation covering child rights.

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The children’s commission must be comprehensive and have a wide scope to cover all critical children-related areas, including the following (not exhaustive):

  • strengthen child protection
  • work to end child poverty
  • improve child health service delivery
  • advance inclusive education for children with diverse disabilities
  • improve early childhood care, education and early intervention services
  • improve the status of migrants, refugees and stateless
  • improve services for children in conflict with the law
  • prevent the detention of any child
  • end child marriage, and reduce teenage pregnancies
  • support indigenous children
  • remove all barriers to children of Malaysian parents from acquiring citizenship

The children’s commission must be able to recognise and remedy violations of children’s rights as they occur, by applying good practices and human rights standards.

Any delay to the wellbeing and protection of a single child can have devastating and long-lasting consequences. Thus, any delay in establishing an independent children’s commission will have significant and long-lasting consequences for the wellbeing of ALL children in Malaysia.

The bill to establish a children’s commission is a crucial step towards aligning Malaysia with its commitments under the UN sustainable development goals and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We would like the prime minister and cabinet to know that we, child advocates and civil society organisations, are firmly behind this initiative and offer our full support. It is the single most important plan that the government has put forward for the betterment of children in our nation.

Many thanks to the Prime Minister’s Department for being the prime driver of this bill, and for ensuring meaningful engagement with stakeholders, including civil society.

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We extend our blessings as the cabinet deliberates on this, and pray that an independent children’s commission will be supported and proposed to Parliament for consideration. It is our hope that all lawmakers, regardless of party affiliation, care enough about Malaysia’s children to unanimously support the passage of the bill for the establishment of an independent children’s commission.

Child rights advocates and civil society organisations:

  1. Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS, consultant paediatrician; child-disability rights activist; adviser, National Early Childhood Intervention Council
  2. Srividhya Ganapathy, co-chairperson, Crib Foundation (Child Rights Innovation and Betterment)
  3. Yuenwah San, The OKU Rights Matter Project
  4. Datin Anit Kaur Randhawa, member of the Harapan OKU Law Reform Group; vice-president (legal), Medico Legal Society Malaysia; member, The OKU Rights Matter Project
  5. Datin PH Wong, Childline Foundation
  6. Dr Selva Kumar Sivapunniam, consultant paediatrician; president, Malaysian Paediatric Association
  7. Cathryn Anila, president and founder, Vanguards4Change
  8. Desiree Kaur, founder, Project Haans; vice-president, Kiwanis Club of Taman Tun Dr Ismail
  9. Dr Amelia Alias, researcher, Childline Foundation
  10. Meera Samanther, disability-gender activist; parent advocate; committee member, Association of Women Lawyers; member, Bar Council civil law and law reform committee; member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group
  11. Association of Toy Libraries Malaysia
  12. Goh Siu Lin, family and child rights advocate
  13. Prof Dato Noor Aziah Mohd Awal, commissioner, Suhakam
  14. Assoc Prof Dr Kamal Kenny, chairman, FRHAM
  15. Yap Sook Yee, founder, WeCareJourney
  16. Syed Azmi, child activist
  17. Kasthuri Krishnan, family and child rights advocate
  18. Azira Aziz, lawyer
  19. RD Ramesh Patel, chairman, Pertubuhan Kebajikan Vivekananda Rembau Negri Sembilan
  20. Make it Right Movement, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
  21. Dato Dr Hartini Zainudin, child activist
  22. Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)
  23. Ajeet Kaur, co-chairperson, Crib Foundation
  24. Lee Teong Hooi, treasurer, Crib Foundation
  25. National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO)
  26. Robyn Choi, deputy president, National Human Rights Society (Hakam)
  27. Margaret Loy, founder, Community Transformation Initiative Bhd
  28. PuakPayong
  29. Ananti Rajasingam, Yayasan Chow Kit
  30. Sabah Women’s Action-Resource Group (Sawo)
  31. Crib Foundation
  32. Association of Women Lawyers
  33. Engender
  34. Sisters in Islam
  35. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
  36. Protect and Save the Children
  37. Malaysian Council for Child Welfare
  38. End CSEC Network
  39. Foreign Spouses Support Group
  40. Persatuan Tadika Malaysia
  41. Looi Lydia, adviser, Persatuan Guru-Guru Tadika Perak
  42. Persatuan Pengasuhan dan Perkembangan Awal Kanak-kanak Berdaftar Malaysia (PPBM)
  43. Jeannie Low, Play Unlimited
  44. Melissa Akhir, Kemban Kolektif
  45. Majlis Pengasuhan dan Pendidikan Awal Kanak Kanak Malaysia (ECCE Council)
  46. Malaysian Assocation of Professional Early Childhood Educators
  47. Malaysian Child Resource Institute (MCRI)
  48. Kennedy Michael, Community Action Nexus
  49. ANAK Sabah
  50. Roslizawati Md Ali, Malaysian Women’s Action for Tobacco Control and Health (MyWatch)
  51. Datuk Dr Raj Karim, Majlis Kebajikan Kanak Kanak Msia
  52. Shamsinah Shariff, president, National Association of Early Childhood Care & Education Malaysia
  53. Nurazianty Nawawi, Kelab Rekreasi Pengasuh Malaysia
  54. Buku Jalanan Chow Kit
  55. Cikgu Rahayu BJCK
  56. Study Hub Asia
  57. Jameyah Sheriff, Sekolah Belantara
  58. Asna Hidayah, Incredible Hearts
  59. Pam Gunaretnam, Humankind
  60. Persatuan Kebajikan Sokongan Keluarga Selangor and Kuala Lumpur (Family Frontiers)
  61. Sarawak Women for Women Society
  62. Malaysian Association of Social Workers
  63. Reproductive Health Association Kelantan (Rehak)
  64. Hasan Al Akraa Refugee Emergency Fund
  65. Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS)
  66. Liliane Fan, Guatanyeo Foundation
  67. Montessori Association Malaysia
  68. Be My Protector
  69. Federation of Malaysian Sri Lankan Organisations
  70. Malaysian Rare Disease Society
  71. Opis International
  72. Dr Irene Cheah and Dr Mary Marret, MPA child protection subcommittee
  73. Childline Young Leaders Programme Cohort 1
  74. Petaling Jaya Child Council
  75. Dr Indra Sevarajah, Chair World Crises Intervention Commission, World Federation of Music Therapy Council
The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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