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, 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 our ASEAN neighbors, Malaysia has yet to act on its commitments as a State party to the Convention which remains little understood.
YB 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 YB Ras’ advocacy on social media and in the press, the Malaysian public have 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 the abuse of OKU-designated parking spaces.
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 YB Ras’ willingness to collaborate with OKU civil society organizations, networks and groups.
We also appreciate her maintaining close contact with grassroots, 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 First Lady Jill Biden and 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 Datuk Ras Adiba Radzi for all persons with disabilities and care partners in Malaysia.
YB Ras Adiba Radzi understands OKU rights and what is required for Malaysia to realize those rights.
The excellent work that YB Ras Adiba Radzi 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 YB Ras Adiba Radzi for her championship of the OKU community.
We, members of the OKU community, persons with disabilities, parent advocates, care partners, disability civil society organizations and allies, appeal to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Prime Minister to extend for a second term Datuk Ras Adiba Radzi as a Senator to represent persons with disabilities.
There are 51 signatories to this letter (persons with disabilities, parent and disability advocates, care partners, members of disability civil society organizations/groups, and allies).
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.