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  • Mellaney Goh

Institutional Reform Workshop by the Ministry of Law & Institutional Reform

Updated: May 25, 2023

This one-day public consultation was conducted at the Asian International Arbitration Centre, Kuala Lumpur

As part of the Malaysia CSO-SDG Alliance, we participated in this workshop, organised by the Ministry of Law and Institutional Reform as part of their engagement with civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Following the minister's previous public statements promising amendments of outdated laws, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman reiterated the importance of addressing current issues with up-to-date laws and policies.

The one-day workshop covered a range of themes. In the Human Rights breakout cluster, the session was moderated by the Chairman of SUHAKAM, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, Professor Datuk Dr. Rahmat Mohamad. Edmund Bon and Firdaus Husni co-chaired the Integrity, Governance & Institution breakout cluster.

It was our first in-person encounter with Prof. Datuk Rahmat. We were delighted to hear about his commitment to champion the recognition of environmental rights as part of our fundamental liberties. He was aligned with our proposal for a constitutional amendment of Article 5 to expressly include the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Prof. Datuk Rahmat had, in conjunction with Human Rights Day last month, made a press statement calling for such an amendment.

In the workshop, we highlighted the gaps in upholding environmental justice, which included access to justice, the lack of dedicated rules of civil procedure to facilitate environmental cases and more. We also brought up aspects relating to Business & Human Rights.

The Ministry of Law and Institutional Reform has proposed several reforms for strengthening human rights, in particular, the reform of SUHAKAM and the constitutional amendment for gender equal citizenship rights. From a sustainable development lens, these reforms are aligned with Sustainable Development Goals 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and 5 (Gender Equality). (Note: Target 16.9 is to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030.)

We believe that it is imperative to end all forms of discrimination against women through adopting and strengthening policies and enforceable legislation to promote gender equality and to empower women. Simultaneously, there is a need to develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions. With SUHAKAM being the main institution for upholding human rights in Malaysia, it should be granted greater power to protect and promote human rights while also maintaining its independence from external pressures.

It is therefore quite exciting to see these legal developments that can bring progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. We hope that this government engagement will be a sign of enhanced partnership between the public sector and the third sector, and that these efforts will strengthen Malaysia's legal landscape and institutional developments.

Themes/tags: human rights, law reform, environmental justice, Sustainable Development Goals, SUHAKAM, Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance

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