Human rights are not just Western concepts – Azalina

18 Jun 2023 07:45am
Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said
Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said

KUALA LUMPUR - Minister in the Prime Minister Department (Law and Institutional Reforms) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said has refuted the perception that human rights are merely Western concepts.

She said that these issues must be seen through the lens of national values and norms.

In a recent interview with Sinar Daily, Azalina raised concerns about society’s lack of respect and oppressive behaviours, particularly between employers and employees.

Drawing upon the teachings of Islam, she condemned those who use religion to justify violence and oppression.

“These issues (human rights) should be guided by Malaysian values, norms, and laws.

“We cannot speak about violence against humans, shaming and oppressing others, and then say that religion allows it to happen.

“We cannot allow oppression to continue. A crime remains a crime. Human rights and religious values are interconnected,” Azalina noted, emphasising the importance of balanced emotional and intellectual intelligence in such discussions.

Azalina insisted that both addressing these behaviours and finding legal solutions are vital.

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“Human rights are connected to religious elements, but discussing human rights should not be seen as conflicting with religious values.

“Intellectual and emotional intelligence are necessary when addressing national issues. Wisdom alone is insufficient without intelligence,” she added.

Speaking about the National Human Rights Commission’s (Suhakam) 2020 annual report set to be tabled this week, she underlined the importance of considering the business element in human rights discussions.

She clarified that human rights are not just about how individuals treat each other but also considerably impact businesses.

Recalling a past incident, she spoke of a foreign investment company listed on Bursa Malaysia that had to close due to its failure to respect human rights.

“This company, involved in producing a product for preventing Covid-19, faced massive backlash leading to its investors pulling out, resulting in a significant financial loss for Malaysia,” she said.

With the advent of information and media technology, the world is closely observing, and any violations can lead to an instant backlash.

“Human rights issues today... it doesn’t necessarily mean what happens in this country, the world won’t know,” she warned.

Azalina stressed that the implications of neglecting human rights also extend to the tourism industry.

She cited cases of Malaysians falling victim to ‘scammers’ offering jobs in foreign countries, which led to instances of human trafficking.

She cautioned that such cases could negatively impact the reputation of the countries involved, making tourists think twice before choosing them as a destination.

Concluding her response, the Pengerang MP urged traders and company owners to consider human rights beyond law enforcement parties.

“Not only should we ensure a well-regulated tourism industry, but also respect human rights at all social and business levels.

“After all, human rights issues go beyond human relationships,” Azalina added.

Based on Section 21 of the Suhakam of Malaysia Act, the commission must table its annual report to Parliament on its activities throughout the year.

In 2019, the Suhakam annual report was debated in Parliament for the first time.

However, in 2020, the Perikatan Nasional-led government paused the tabling of the Suhakam report in Parliament, saying that it has no plans to allow it again.

Last December, Suhakam chief commissioner Rahmat Mohamad told the Federal Government to table and debate its annual report in Parliament.

In accordance with Section 21 of the Suhakam Act, the statutory body is required to table an annual report to Parliament on all its activities throughout the year.