KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 – A United Nations representative will present his findings to the Human Rights Council next Monday on the lack of safe drinking water for underprivileged communities in Malaysia.
Leo Heller, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights to water and sanitation, said in a report on his two-week visit to Malaysia last November that Orang Asli; rural populations; communities affected by mega projects like dams, logging, and oil palm plantations; longhouse residents; undocumented children; refugees and asylum seekers; prisoners and detainees; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBT) people in Malaysia still lacked access to water and sanitation services.
“The Special Rapporteur commends the government and the population of Malaysia for the visible and notable achievements in collecting, managing, and distributing water and sanitation services across the country, and sees these achievements as the result of a historic commitment to the provision of public services.
“However, when this picture is observed from a human rights perspective, it is a great concern that some groups still do not enjoy their human rights to water and sanitation as they collect water from surface sources that are often compromised in terms of quality, and use inadequate sanitation services,” Heller said in the report.
The 42nd session of the UN’s Human Rights Council meets from September 9 to 27. Malaysia was last part of the UN body, which is responsible for promoting human rights around the globe, in 2013.
Among key mentions in Heller’s report on Malaysia is that a targeted policy is needed to ensure that the Orang Asli community receive proper access to water and sanitation services, and that the role and capacity of the Department of Orang Asli Development must be improved to provide better access to water and sanitation to them.
Furthermore, Heller pointed out that LGBT people in Malaysia, who often face structural and systemic discrimination, must also be taken into account for basic human rights, including access to public toilets.
He also suggested that the Ministry of Health play a more active role in auditing and interpreting the results of the monitoring of water quality by providers.
Heller was in Malaysia for an official tour from November 14 to 27, 2018, where he met with representatives of the various levels of the government, representatives of civil society, human rights defenders and members of the general public.
In May and early June this year, a purported measles outbreak led to the death of 15 members of the Bateq Orang Asli group in Kampong Kuala Koh, Gua Musang.
Observations and tests by a medical team from the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations of Malaysia revealed that water from three sources in the Kelantanese village was not suitable for human consumption, as it contained faecal contamination and unsafe levels of manganese.