Tomorrow, Dec. 10, is the universal Human Rights Day observed every year the commemorate the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This year’s Human Rights Day is devoted to the launch of a year-long campaign for the 50th anniversary of the two International Covenants on Human Rights: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, which were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16th December 1966.
The two Covenants, together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, form the International Bill of Human Rights, setting out the civil, political, cultural, economic, and social rights that are the birth right of all human beings.
The theme of this year’s Human Rights Day – “Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.” – aims to promote and raise awareness of the two Covenants on their 50th anniversary.
The year-long campaign revolves around the theme of rights and freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear — which underpin the International Bill of Human Rights and are as relevant today as they were when the Covenants were adopted 50 years ago.
Thirty-eight years ago, in October 1977, I moved a motion in Parliament for Malaysia’s ratification of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights 1966.
I asked in Parliament during the two-day debate on my motion why the Malaysian Government was prepared to vote for its adoption in the UN General Assembly but not prepared after eleven years, to ratify the Covenant after it was opened for signature since Dec. 19, 1966.
It was during this two-day debate that I proposed the establishment of a Human Rights Commission to protect and promote human rights in Malaysia.
My motion for Malaysia to ratify the International Covenant on Human Rights was defeated in 1977.
Both International Human Rights Covenants are now celebrating their 50th anniversary but Malaysia is still recalcitrant in refusing to ratify them.
This is a great embarrassment and shame for Malaysia.
What is worse, on the eve of the 2015 Human Rights Day and 50th anniversary of these two International Covenants of Human Rights, the Malaysian Government has rammed through, without prior notice to the nation, Members of Parliament, the affected State Governments and the civil society, like “a thief in the night”, a monstrous and pernicious National Security Council Bill which would have the most serious effects on civil liberties, usurp the constitutional powers of the Yang di Pertuan Agong and the Cabinet on the proclamation of emergency, and pave the way to a dictatorship.
DAP will mark the universal 2015 Human Rights Day by challenging the undemocratic and unconstitutional National Security Council Bill every step of the way – from Dewan Rakyat to Dewan Negara, Royal Assent, the courts and the bar of public opinion.
If the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, cares for the Malaysian Constitution, the autonomy rights of Sarawak and Sabah, the promotion and protection of human rights in Malaysia, he should withdraw the pernicious National Security Council Bill from the Senate and refer it to a national consultative council comprising the various State Governments, political parties and civil society representatives to debate and decide on whether Malaysia needs such a National Security Council Bill.
(Speech at the launch of the DAP 50th Anniversary Celebrations at Ballroom 2, City Kingdom, Seremban on Wednesday 9th December 2015)