Malaysia made a good start in passing the Persons with Disabilities (PwD) Act, 2008 (Akta 685) and ratifying, in 2010, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
However, disabled persons (OKU), disability activists, disability civil society organizations (CSOs) and OKU care partners have long voiced that the PwD Act, 2008 has not been implemented, is not enforceable, lacks critical elements and is thus powerless in upholding and protecting OKU rights.
Hence, the on-going amendment of the PwD Act 2008 must be harmonized with the CRPD and take into consideration all the General comments and Guidelines issued by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
A Special Project Team has been set up to work on the amendments to the PwD Act 2008.
However, it is unclear to what extent its members have done the following in order to do justice to their important task:
◾Studied all the General comments and other relevant documents issued by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,
◾Consulted with the wider OKU community, and
◾Compared disability legislation in neighboring countries.
Malaysia’s neighbors have domestic policy and legislation that are more harmonized with the CRPD in the explicit upholding of the rights of persons with disabilities and protection against discrimination on the ground of disability.
Among them are, for example, India; the Republic of Korea; Thailand; Indonesia; Singapore; China, including Hong Kong; as well as Fiji, New Zealand and Australia.
What progress have regional countries made in their disability legislation?
The table below offers a brief comparison with disability laws of selected countries regarding harmonization with the CRPD.
It does not include harmonization of other domestic legislation in diverse sectors (federal to local) with the CRPD.
A more detailed analysis is available from these links: Harmonization of Domestic Legislation with the CRPD – OKU Rights Matter; and Policy and Legislation: Other Countries – OKU Rights Matter.
Note: in both Thailand and Indonesia, all major organizations of persons with diverse disabilities are united and work together in cross-disability solidarity.
This solidarity enables good representation and advocacy in working with the government on the implementation and enforcement of their respective Acts.
In contrast, Malaysia is very, very far behind regional neighbors in its disability legislation and disability rights.
For many years, these countries already have legislation that far outstrips ours – a broad definition of disability; comprehensive definitions of discrimination and harassment; independent disability commissions; clear grievance redress mechanisms and the absence of ouster clauses.
We are concerned over our nation’s performance record as a leading ASEAN Member State in its failure to harmonize domestic legislation following CRPD ratification.
Requiring urgent remedial action is the absence of a viable mechanism supportive of upholding and protecting the rights of disabled persons who have experienced discrimination, i.e., a clear grievance redress mechanism.
It is critical that the ongoing amendment of Malaysia’s PwD Act, 2008 addresses these shortfalls.
We are also concerned that the lack of transparency of the amendment process violates the fundamental principle of “Nothing about Us without Us.”
The concerned Ministry (KPWKM) has a responsibility to Malaysian citizens to enable wide sharing of the draft amendments with the OKU community and other Ministries and Departments, as well as provide adequate opportunity for genuinely seeking and considering the views of concerned Malaysian voters.
All this is to generate feedback for further revision of the amendments before the Bill containing the draft amendments is tabled in Parliament for debate.
These steps are necessary to enable Malaysia to have a strong amended Act that can be enforced–an amended Act that all Malaysians can be proud of when it is compared with that of other countries.
Furthermore, it would be of utmost importance to include one word–“disability”–in an amendment of Articles 8 (2) and 12 (1) of the Federal Constitution, to expressly prohibit discrimination on the ground of disability.
If the Government condones the production of an amended PwD Act that is still powerless and not harmonized with the spirit and intent of the CRPD, then we will, as a nation, have all failed the entire OKU community and our allies and future generations of Malaysians.
Respect and Trust are at the heart of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s Malaysia Madani.
We hope to see the reality of Malaysia Madani in the meaningful amendment of the PwD Act, 2008 that is genuinely harmonized with the CRPD.
(Dato’ Dr. Amar-Singh HSS, Yuenwah San and Ng Lai-Thin, The OKU Rights Matter Project.)