‘We didn’t fight the British to become independent so that we can oppress our own people,’ says the new chairman of Suhakam.
As the new Suhakam chairman, Tan Sri Razali Ismail says he won’t be going to barricades trying to knock down doors on human rights. For him, there is no “They against Us” or “Us against Them” when it comes to Suhakam and the government.
“We want to try to build a kind of sophistication where the government knows where we are coming from and trust us and don’t look at us as an agent to challenge or destroy them. We are not out to bash them,” he says.
The former diplomat believes “it is possible to persuade” the government on human rights. “I have to try my talent and my charm on the people inside, which is not going to be easy.”
Razali says Suhakam wants to talk with civil servants on human rights and hopes it can be introduced as part of the school syllabus to start the kids on it from young. He says “ it is a poor show on the part of the government” that Suhakam’s annual report is not tabled and debated in parliament.
“I am prepared to go on bended knees to meet with the Speakers of Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara on this. They must look at us.’’
The following is the full interview with Razali.
Q: How would you describe the state of human rights in the country now compared to 10 years ago?
We have come quite a long way. We are on the verge of being a developed country. With that, comes the attributes of human rights. In the olden days, we never used to bathe in hot water but now virtually all the urban population in Malaysia wants to bathe in hot water. These are things which are important to people naturally.
In the past, some of us including me used to wake up at 4.30am, trek an hour to the road to wait for a bus to go to school. This is hardly heard of these days, although it might still be happening in some places.
So human rights has come a long way in the country. But that is not the end of the journey. There are many things to do. The more developed the country is, the greater the expectations.
Q : Wouldn’t you say there is a deteriorating of human rights now compared to ten years ago because there are now more religious tensions?
It is the people who make the tensions. I don’t necessarily point a finger at the government for the religious tension. There are many other reasons for that. I am not an apologist to the government at all. Believe you me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.
You have to understand history. The British detained people arbitrarily during the colonial days. But now, there is to a greater extent a system for redress.
And there are aspects of human rights which the country must get into seriously like the deprivation of people.
Some of them are not Malaysian nationals. Then there are those who are marginalised. These people have to be helped.
The philosophy of Malaysia is to help all people. Historically, there are no permanent people in Malaysia.
Everyone came here from some area or other and they came with hopes and dreams, If their dreams don’t happen, they hope it will happen in their children’s lifetime. So the government must understand the aspirations of people that they want to move ahead and do better and the government must help.
We cannot have a country that is truncated between the rich and the poor. If everyone is poor, fine. If everyone is rich, that’s great. But you can’t have a huge disparity of income. We have to deal with that. To me, that is very important. This is what Suhakam wants to look into. We must get a lot of support from people who realise it is a bad thing to have these disparities.
Q: But the government already has been coming up with a lot of policies over the years to address disparities and grow the middle class?
Yes the government has done a lot. We have better access to housing and greater access to education. But people who are not Malaysians are not getting it. We have migrant workers here who think of Malaysia as Shangri-la. They prosper here and we have to help them. The global responsibility of Malaysia is linked to our own constitution. Suhakam will pay a lot of attention in dealing with that.
Q: You were a diplomat and a UN special envoy to Myanmar. Is that why you have taken a special interest in this?
I carry the bad habits of being a diplomat in trying to look at things, somewhere in between – at possibilities.
I don’t go to barricades and try to knock down doors. We have not come to a point where we have do this in Malaysia. I think it is possible to persuade.
by SHAHANAAZ HABIB.
Read more @ http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/07/31/a-diplomatic-approach-to-human-rights-we-didnt-fight-the-british-to-become-independent-so-that-we-ca/