- Criteria for Office
We believe that the selection of independent, impartial and professional candidates with high integrity and recognised competence in the field of human rights is necessary to ensure the effectiveness and credibility of Suhakam to fulfil its mandate as the national human rights institution of Malaysia.
Section 5(3) of the enabling law of Suhakam states that “[t]he members of the Commission shall be appointed from amongst men and women of various religious, political, racial backgrounds who have knowledge of, or practical experience in, human rights matters”.
With regard to Section 5(3) we are particularly concerned that the language used to formulate the criteria for Suhakam Commissioners, i.e. those “who have knowledge of, or practical experience in, human rights matters” may be interpreted in such a manner that individuals who do not necessarily have the experience in the field of human rights may be appointed to the Commission. As it is imperative for Suhakam Commissioners to have a solid understanding on human rights matters, we urge the selection committee to interpret the said provision in a manner which would ensure such by selecting only those who have been involved in the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.
Membership in the Commission should reflect a balanced representation of the genders. The pool of qualified candidates from which members of the Commission are selected should represent different sectors, backgrounds, and thoughts of society to ensure pluralistic representation.
Further referring to Section 5(3), we are equally concerned about the inclusion of persons from different political backgrounds in the Commission. While the appointment of Commissioners from various political backgrounds could contribute to pluralism in the Commission, we would like to caution the selection committee that clear affiliations of Commissioners with any political party could compromise the independence of Suhakam.
As such, we recommend that candidates who have stood in the country’s elections in the last five years – in either the federal or state levels – be disqualified from being considered for appointment as Suhakam Commissioners.
We also note the public perception that Suhakam’s effectiveness and independence has been undermined by the appointment of former government servants, who have made up a majority of Suhakam Commissioners appointed in previous years.
We therefore recommend that the selection committee sets a maximum of 20 per cent of those to be shortlisted for appointment to the Commission to be from amongst former government servants. This is vital to ensure that decisions of the Commission are not determined by virtue of the views of Commissioners from similar backgrounds, especially in view of the fact that a two-thirds majority of votes by Commissioners is needed in the decision making of Suhakam when consensus cannot be achieved.
- Selection Process
- open and meaningful, with the involvement of all social actors to ensure pluralist representation, consideration for gender balance, and the widest participation;
- conducted in a transparent and open manner in which the public is fully, accurately and continuously informed of its progress and decisions;
- monitored and evaluated by the public at large and by the legislature.
We also believe that a transparent, participatory and inclusive selection process with input from all stakeholders is necessary to ensure the effectiveness and credibility of Suhakam as well as the selection committee. While appreciating that Section 11A(5) provides that the selection committee may determine the conduct of its own proceedings, in our commitment to advocate a selection process which is open, transparent and inclusive, we strongly urge that the selection process be:
In order to do so, members of the Commission shall be selected from a pool of qualified candidates proposed through a transparent, participatory and inclusive process guided by the Paris Principles and international human rights standards.
To do so, we have written to the Prime Minister’s Department to request that nomination forms be made public through its website and that a public announcement regarding the opening of the nomination process be made. We have also urged the Prime Minister’s Department to make public all candidates’ names and profiles on its website.
In the same vein, we urge the selection committee to also make public through its own means all names and profiles of candidates received and being considered.
In selecting candidates, we urge the selection committee to hold public interviews where each candidate’s qualifications, competence and integrity can be thoroughly and adequately reviewed by the selection committee, with the public fully informed of the process, merits of each candidate, as well as the basis of the committee’s decisions.