KUALA LUMPUR: Asean is close to adopting an Asean Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) but the majority of its peoples have not heard of or seen it or been consulted on it.

Malaysian Bar president Lim Chee Wee said this was deeply regrettable as the proposed document would speak about the human rights of the peoples of Asean.

He said this yesterday in supporting the statement by 137 Asean civil society organisations and networks to the Asean Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and its country representatives on April 8 to release the draft.

Although the AICHR received the draft on Jan 8 for deliberation and debate, they said the public had been excluded from any meaningful participation in the drafting process.

While commending the AICHR representatives from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines for holding consultations with their civil society at national level, they said “no such initiative has taken place” in the rest of Asean.

Lim added that AICHR had no active engagement with national human rights institutions.

“In Malaysia, Suhakam has not been engaged by the Malaysian AICHR representative.”

On Jan 9, The Star quoted Malaysia’s representative Datuk Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as saying Suhakam had invited him but he had replied then that he was waiting for the working draft.

Lim called on the governments of Asean member countries to “make public the current draft of the AHRD, and then to hold open and transparent consultations with the peoples of Asean” on it.

“If need be, the submission of the draft to the Asean Ministerial Meeting should be delayed in order for comprehensive consultations.

“Since the AHRD is to be a foundational document that captures the hopes and aspirations of the peoples of Asean, their voices must be heard.” –SHAILA KOSHY, koshy@thestar.com.my