Monday, December 5

Report: Lack of Sarawak complaints worries Suhakam, says new commissioner Madeline Berma


KUCHING: The small number of complaints received by the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) from Sarawak is a cause for concern for Sarawakian Madeline Berma, who was recently appointed a commissioner of the organisation.

“There are very little complaints in Sarawak to the point that the federal (Suhakam headquarters) is quite worried,” she said in an interview with online news portal, FMT, in Kuala Lumpur.

Madeline said that either there was nothing for Sarawakians to complain about, or they were not aware of Suhakam’s existence.

“We have two main responsibilities at Suhakam – to protect and to promote human rights. This is why I find it a bit disturbing because we have reports about land issues and so on but obviously they have not been reported to Suhakam Sarawak.”

She said many did go and complain directly to the related agencies, such as the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority for land development issues or the National Registration Department for identity card-related problems.

But while these problems did get settled, she said most of the time Sarawakians went to the wrong agency for the wrong problem.

This further delayed solutions to their problems, and complicated things in the long run, she added.

Madeline cited as an example the case of dilapidated schools in Sarawak in which she said complainants could air their grouses directly to the state education ministry or its federal counterpart on their own.

However, she said if there were parents who thought their children had been denied the right to education simply because they were poor, then they could bring it up to Suhakam.

Madeline pointed out that once a complaint is filed, Suhakam will initiate investigations and assign an officer within 14 days.

In contrast, she said, some agencies “just go quiet” after complaints are made.

Madeline suggested one-stop-centres throughout Sarawak and a desk in each Residents’ Office, which will be more practical for rural communities to reach out to.

She also hoped that decentralisation of powers for Suhakam Sarawak as well as Suhakam Sabah would become a reality soon as it was bothersome for some things such as claims and budget plans to be approved by Suhakam headquarters.