Let good work continue: Datuk Ras Adiba Radzi
As a former news presenter, Paralympian and Chairman of Bernama, Datuk Ras Adiba Radzi is no stranger to Malaysians. However, it was her appointment on May 20, 2020 as a Senator to represent persons with disabilities, that underscored her lifetime achievement.
For three years, Datuk Ras Adiba Radzi has been the single most consistent and articulate voice in the Dewan Negara and in Parliament, promoting the rights of persons with disabilities (Orang Kurang Upaya, OKU), OKU care partners, as well as parents and family members of OKU. She has worked hard to highlight many issues that impact the OKU community: health, education, employment, access to information (Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled), transport, the media, food security and welfare.
Importantly for Malaysia, her voice helps Malaysian lawmakers and government officials understand issues pertaining to the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) that Malaysia ratified in 2010. Unlike Asean neighbours, Malaysia has yet to act on its commitments as a State party to the Convention which remains little understood.
Ras has tirelessly advocated with ministers and government officials for the realization of OKU rights, often working behind the scenes towards resolving issues or improving conditions for OKU well-being.
Thanks to Ras’s advocacy on social media and in the press, the Malaysian public has been far better informed about OKU rights and cases of injustice experienced. For the first time, police reports have been made against cyber mockery/bullying of Deaf persons’ use of Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia (BIM, Malaysian Sign Language) and abuse of OKU-designated parking space. This stands out in a country that is short on penalty and public shaming of OKU-hostile discriminatory acts, despite 15 years since the enactment of the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008.
We appreciate Ras’s willingness to collaborate with OKU civil society organisations, networks and groups. We also appreciate her maintaining close contact with grassroot, low-income households with OKU members and her openness to understanding genuine issues faced by diverse OKU groups, including those who are less well understood such as persons living with rare diseases and psychosocial issues.
The work she has been doing locally has caught international attention and she was the only Asean recipient of the 2023 International Women of Courage Award, presented to her on March 8, 2023 in the White House by US First Lady, Jill Biden, and US Secretary of State, Anthony J. Blinken.
It is often observed that Malaysians are more likely to receive recognition abroad than at home. We in the OKU community place on record our sincere appreciation of the hard work and dedication of Ras for all persons with disabilities and care partners in Malaysia.
Ras understands OKU rights and what is required for Malaysia to realize those rights. The excellent work that Ras has put in has only just begun to bear fruit. Malaysia needs an OKU Senator whose lived experience of disability is balanced by understanding of gender equality rights, openness to continuous learning and living by CRPD principles, to help break silos and bridge critical fault lines.
As with her predecessor, another term as Senator would enable the momentum to grow for the benefit of Malaysia, as we all strive to achieve social progress as a disability-inclusive nation. Let it be said that Malaysian decision-makers do value and recognize Ras for her championship of the OKU community.
We, members of the OKU community, persons with disabilities, parent advocates, care partners, disability civil society organisations and allies, appeal to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Prime Minister to extend, for a second term, Ras as a Senator to represent persons with disabilities.
There are some 50 signatories to this letter (persons with disabilities, parent and disability advocates, care partners, members of disability civil society organisations/groups, and allies):
1. Dato’ Dr. Amar-Singh HSS, person with dyslexia, child-disability activist, Advisor National Early Childhood Intervention Council, Advisor National Family Support Group for Children & People with Special Needs, Member, The OKU Rights Matter Project and Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.
2. Yuenwah San, disability-ageing-gender activist, care partner, and Honorary Senior Advisor (Disability Inclusion), Social Development Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); Member, The OKU Rights Matter Project; and Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.
3. Meera Samanther, disability-gender activist; parent advocate; Chair (Persons with Disability), Civil Law & Law Reform Committee, Bar Council; Committee Member, Association of Women Lawyers, Malaysia; Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group; former President, Women’s Aid Organisation; and former President, Association of Women Lawyers.
4. Anit Randhawa, Advocate and Solicitor; Co-Chair, Committee for Introduction of Mental Capacity Act, Civil Law & Law Reform Committee, Bar Council; Member, The OKU Rights Matter Project; Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.
5. Mary Chen, Founding Chairperson, Challenges Foundation; and Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.
6. Sangeet Kaur Deo, Advocate and Solicitor; Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.
7. Dr. Naziaty Mohd Yaacob, polio survivor and person with multiple disabilities; Accessibility and Mobility Advisor; Facilitator, Kuala Lumpur City Hall Strategic Plan on Accessibility Audits; former Member, Majlis Kebangsaan Orang Kurang Upaya (MBOKU), 2008-2012; and former Associate Professor of Architecture, Universiti Malaya.
8. Jessica Mak, President, Malaysian Sign Language and Deaf Studies Association.
9. Annie Ong Hwei Ling, President, National Organization of Malaysian Sign Language Instructors.
10. Mutharasapan Lakshmanan, President, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Deaf Media and Technology Association.
11. Albert Wong Toung Chui, Chairman, Sarawak Society for the Deaf.
12. Sharifah Tahir, Care Partner; Dementia and Care Partner Advocate; Teepa Snow Positive Approach to Care (PAC) Certified Independent Advanced Consultant and Trainer; and Founder of UniquelyMeInitiatives.
13. Edmund Lim, Co-Founder and President, Persatuan WeCareJourney; activist (child-disability, spinal muscular atrophy and rare diseases); and care partner.
14. Wong Hui Min, President, National Early Childhood Intervention Council, Malaysia.
15. Simon Hoo, Chairperson, Support for Parents, Infants & Children through Early Services (SPICES) Early Intervention Centre
16. Ng Lai-Thin, care partner, and Project Lead, National Early Childhood Intervention Council; Member, The OKU Rights Matter Project.
17. Dr Wong Woan Yiing, Consultant Paediatrician, Committee Member, NETWORK for the Needs of Children with Disability Perak
18. Ai-Na Khor, CEO, Asia Community Service.
19. Mary Lam, Chairperson, Pertubuhan Perkhidmatan Intervensi Awal (PPIA), Batu Pahat.
20. Dato Fatimah Saad, Chairman, Kiwanis Malaysia Academy; and Charter President, Kiwanis Club of Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI).
21. Desiree Hersham Kaur A/P Gerdit Singh, Founder of Project Haans; Co-Founder of Adells Learning Centre; and Vice-President of Kiwanis Club of Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI).
22. Dunstan Soo Guan Lim, Sarawak OKU Skills Development Association.
23. Wong Poh Lin, Director of Siloam House, A Home for People with Disability.
24. Loh Kong Kean, Honorary Advisor, Society of the Blind in Malaysia (SBM).
25. Feilina Feisol, Board Member, National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM); and Board Member, Ronald McDonald House of Charity (RMHC).
26. Mary Shanthi Dairiam, Women’s Right to Equality Expert; former United Nations CEDAW Committee Member, January 2005- December 2008; Founding Director, International Women’s Rights Action Watch - Asia Pacific; former President, Women’s Aid Organisation, 2001-2003.
27. Ivy N. Josiah, Women’s Rights Advocate & Gender Educator, Past President & Executive Director, Women’s Aid Organisation.
28. Bina Ramanand, Co-Founder, Foreign Spouse Support Group; Women's Equality and Gender Justice activist.
29. Dr. Lim Chee Han, Main Coordinator, Manifesto Rakyat; Head of Political Cluster, Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia; Co- Convener, People's Health Forum; Co-Founder, Agora Society Malaysia; Exco Member, Family Frontiers.
30. Nik Nadia binti Nik Mohd Yusoff, Parent Advocate.
31. Wathshlah G. Naidu, Gender and Human Rights Activist.
32. Tan Kuan Aw, artist with multiple disabilities and veteran disability rights activist.
33. Moses Choo Siew Cheong, former Member, Majlis Kebangsaan Orang Kurang Upaya (MBOKU), 2016-2021.
34. Anthony Alexander Chong Vee Yee (PhD), Deaf Advocate and Malaysian Socio-Linguistics Expert; and BIM Poet.
35. Haymasuthan Periasamy, Deaf Advocate and Photographer.
36. Tay Chia Yi, Speech-Language Therapist; and first Malaysian reading an MSc in Dementia Studies (Bangor University, Wales, United Kingdom).
37. Dr. Leela Koran, dementia care advocate and researcher (with particular interest in language loss and linguistic diversity).
38. Prof. Dr Toh Teck Hock, Consultant Paediatrician and Child-Health / Disabilities Activist; Vice President, National Early Childhood Intervention Council; Advisor, National Family Support Group for Children & People with Special Needs.
39. Dr Hasnah Toran, Pensyarah Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia & Pakar Autisme.
40. Prof Ruzita Amin, Pensyarah Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia & OKU Fizikal.
41. Dr Aizan Sofia, Pensyarah Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia & OKU Fizikal.
42. Dato Major-General Yusri, Aktivis Kesedaran OKU.
43. Dr. Shatesh Kumar, Aktivis Belia.
44. Ahmad Daniel, Timbalan Presiden OKU Sentral.
45. Association of Women Lawyers.
46. Pertubuhan Orang Cacat Penglihatan Malaysia.
47. Methodist Care Centre, Sarawak.
48. Sibu Autistic Association.
49. Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation.
50. Pertubuhan Perkhidmatan Intervensi Awal (PPIA), Batu Pahat.
51. Persatuan Kanak-kanak Istimewa Kajang Selangor (PKIK).
Following our initiative, an appeal letter was submitted to the Prime Minister, with over 4,700 individuals endorsing that appeal for a second term for YB Ras as Senator.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.