Protecting human rights must be set as a national priority: MP Kasthuri

Media statement by DAP Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan and International Secretary for DAP Women Kasthuri Patto on Friday 10th December 2021 on Human Rights Day:

Protecting and promoting human rights must be set as a national priority and not to be viewed as a threat to national policies.

December 10th this year marks the 73rd year to commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is observed as a day that nations proclaim and pledge their commitment to uphold the tenets of human rights by defending, promoting and protecting it.

As Malaysia is now a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, there is much to be expected and even more to be achieved by our nation as we grapple with a myriad of crises – a health crisis, an economic crisis and a political crisis.

The subject of human rights is one that must be viewed as upholding universal values of peace, respect, cohesivity, democracy, equality, freedom, justice and righteousness and never one that endangers national or nationalist policies.

The Government need not fear human rights concepts such as the right to life, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, the right to education, the right to healthcare, the right to equal pay and the right to be treated as equals.

There will always be a group of naysayers and those who are afraid of their own shadows who will object to Malaysia ratifying a convention that is essentially anti-racial discrimination like ICERD and on the Rome Statute which is to be a party to the International Criminal Court to punish war criminals who commit crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing as seen in the case of the “Butcher of Bosnia” or commit to ending child marriages, or having a healthy discourse on freedom of religion and belief, or etting the narrative of gender inclusiveness, or on the issue of refugees – documented and undocumented workers, or even abolishing the death penalty because of the false information and emotional spin that puts fears in the minds of Malaysians.

But we must rise above ourselves and shed the siege mentality and remember that human rights is for all and not for the elite alone or the powerful or the privileged. And this image and tone must be set by the Government.

100 years ago, women weren’t allowed to vote in the UK. Today, it would be a violation if a woman, or any person is prevented from carrying out their right to choose their leaders and Government.

Decades ago, hitting, humiliating and threatening your spouse was acceptable in most societies until decades of challenging a conservative, rigid system in place changed that. Lay a hand on your partner and you can be sure you will face the long arm of the law.

Colonist countries that once defended age old tribal and primitive practices like keeping the death penalty have abolished it and yet colony countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and other nations still maintain this archaic form of punishment that is no remedy nor deterrent for crimes.

The Government must lead by example to irrevocably punish those who drive wedges between race, religion, gender and class in Malaysia and not perpetuate it further for the sake of popularity by playing to the gallery. After all, haven’t we all been taught that no one is above the law?

After 64 years of independence, we are still talking about the colour of our skin, identity politics and segregationist policies – the wretched recipes in a disaster known as apartheidism.

I am confident that Malaysians will rise above ourselves as bangsa Malaysia. The question is will the Government be able to match the courage, patriotism and drive by peace loving Malaysians to rise above itself to be a defender and protector of human rights and to reject all forms of discriminatory practices in Malaysia?

What Malaysians need is for the Government to have political will, endurance, gumption and to spark the imagination of all – to take us, all of us, together on this journey of self discovery of our right as “Anak Bangsa Malaysia”.

Happy Human Rights Day to all!

Kasthuri Patto
Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan
International Secretary for Wanita DAP

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