Gabungan Bertindak Malaysa (GBM) believes that it is important for Malaysia to be a nation that upholds the human rights of all people based on the dignity of universal humanity.
Each year, 10 December is celebrated as the International Human Rights Day. The theme of the 2020 celebration is “Recover Better – Stand Up For Human Rights”.
The year 2020 has proven to be a challenging year for Malaysia. Gabungan Bertindak Malaysa (GBM) believes that it is important for Malaysia to be a nation that upholds the human rights of all people based on the dignity of universal humanity.
Such an approach to human rights will demonstrate the following characteristics:
- Fundamental liberties such as freedom of thought, conscience, religion, speech, assembly and association must be guaranteed and protected by the state and prevented from any form of encroachment
- As in previous years, Malaysia still has a lot to improve on regarding the upholding of these freedoms. A lawyer, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, was called up for investigation in March under the Peaceful Assembly Act for organising a protest against the change of government. A politician, Ronnie Liu, was detained by the police under the Sedition Act for voicing support for Thai protesters who called for the reform of the monarchy institution in their country. University of Malaya Association of New Youth (Umany), a student organisation which is also a member organisation of GBM, was probed by the university administration and the police, as well as threatened with violence by online thugs, for espousing the principle of constitutional monarchy when addressing the question of the King’s role in national affairs. All these examples illustrate the gargantuan challenges ahead for Malaysians in preserving the fundamental liberties as provided in our Constitution
- Governments chosen through free and fair elections must have the necessary and effective mechanisms to curb any distortion of the electoral mandate and underrepresentation of women and minorities
- The political drama throughout 2020 has proven that Malaysia is in desperate need of establishing a mechanism against the distortion of the people’s mandate. Whether it is ‘anti-hopping’ law, recall elections or any other mechanism, it is imperative for the people to keep their confidence in the electoral process and to feel that their votes matter. This is also important to curb the political instability caused by the never-ending defections and enticements of elected representatives
- Impartiality and integrity of the judiciary, Attorney General’s Chambers, bureaucracy, police, military and all other unelected public institutions. It is important that all these public institutions keep their integrity and remain impartial. The perceived double standards over the treatment of VIPs and common people who were caught flouting rules for Covid-19 prevention and the dropping of charges against politicians of the ruling governments by the Attorney General’s Chambers have undermined the people’s confidence in these institutions, and efforts must be made to restore the people’s trust in them.
- Socioeconomic inclusion and sustainable development to ensure no one is left behind with basic needs fulfilled and equal opportunity for all to pursue life goals and a good life
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The effects of economic and social disruption due to Covid-19 are felt by all people living in Malaysia. However, the vulnerable portions of society are those who are disproportionately affected, such as people in low-income groups who have lost their jobs, students from impoverished families who are unable to afford the necessary equipment for online learning, students from rural areas with poor internet connection which adversely affected their progress in online learning, and migrant workers living in deplorable conditions susceptible to communicable diseases, including Covid-19.
It is our hope that the people in power and those who aspire to be in power do not view these predicaments as temporary ailments that will go away once the Covid threat has abated but will take a deep look into the vulnerability exposed by the crisis and take measures to develop a new socioeconomic and development agenda that is inclusive and sustainable.
This new agenda must also include the indispensable component of spirituality and moral formation as a holistic approach to development that seeks the material as well as the spiritual wellbeing of a person, his or her family and communal life and place in society and the nation.
The future of the country lies with each and every action that we take to ensure that everyone’s rights as a human being and as part of our common humanity are upheld and guaranteed.
Badlishah Sham Baharin is chair of Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM). This piece was released on behalf of the GBM executive council