As a former news presenter, Paralympian, and chair of Bernama, Ras Adiba Radzi is certainly no stranger to Malaysians. However, it was her appointment on May 20, 2020 as a Senator that represents persons with disabilities which has been regarded as her lifetime achievement.
For three years, Ras Adiba 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 or 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, including 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, the media, food security, and welfare.
Most importantly for Malaysia, she has helped 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 its ASEAN neighbours, Malaysia has yet to act on its commitments as a State party to the Convention, which remains little understood.
Ras Adiba has tirelessly advocated with ministers and government officials for the realisation of OKU rights, often working behind the scenes towards resolving issues or improving conditions for OKU wellbeing.
Thanks to her advocacy on social media and in the press, the Malaysian public has been far better informed about OKU rights and cases of injustice experienced.
For the first time, police reports have been made against cyber mockery and bullying of deaf persons’ use of Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia (BIM, or Malaysian Sign Language) and 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 Ras Adiba’s willingness to collaborate with OKU civil society organisations, networks and groups. We also appreciate her maintaining close contact with grassroot, 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 United States Secretary of State Anthony 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 Ras Adiba’s hard work and dedication for all persons with disabilities and care partners in Malaysia.
Ras Adiba understands OKU rights and what is required for Malaysia to realise those rights. The excellent work that she has put in has only just begun to bear fruit.
Malaysia needs an OKU Senator whose lived experience of disability is balanced by an 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 recognise Ras Adiba for her championing of the OKU community.
We, members of the OKU community, persons with disabilities, parent advocates, care partners, disability civil society organisations and allies, appeal to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Prime Minister to extend for a second term Ras Adiba’s tenure as a Senator to represent persons with disabilities.
There are some 50 signatories to this letter (persons with disabilities, parent and disability advocates, care partners, members of disability civil society organisations/ 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 Ras Adiba as Senator.
- Dr Amar-Singh HSS, person with dyslexia, child-disability activist, advisor to National Early Childhood Intervention Council, advisor to National Family Support Group for Children and People with Special Needs, Member, The OKU Rights Matter Project, and member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.
- Yuenwah San, disability-ageing gender activist, care partner, and Honorary Senior Advisor (Disability Inclusion), Social Development Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); Member, The OKU Rights Matter Project; and member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.
- Meera Samanther, disability gender activist, parent advocate, chair (Persons with Disability), Civil Law and Law Reform Committee, Bar Council, committee member, Association of Women Lawyers, Malaysia, member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Groupm former President, Women’s Aid Organisation, and former President, Association of Women Lawyers.
- Anit Randhawa, advocate and solicitor, co-chair, Committee for Introduction of Mental Capacity Act, Civil Law and Law Reform Committee, Bar Council, member, The OKU Rights Matter Project, and member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.
- Mary Chen, founding chairperson, Challenges Foundation and member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.
- Sangeet Kaur Deo, advocate and solicitor, and member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.
- Dr. Naziaty Mohd Yaacob, polio survivor and person with multiple disabilities, Accessibility and Mobility Advisor, facilitator, Kuala Lumpur City Hall Strategic Plan on Accessibility Audits, former member, Majlis Kebangsaan Orang Kurang Upaya (MBOKU) 2008-2012, and former associate professor of Architecture, University of Malaya.
- Jessica Mak, president, Malaysian Sign Language and Deaf Studies Association.
- Annie Ong Hwei Ling, president, National Organisation of Malaysian Sign Language Instructors.
- Mutharasapan Lakshmanan, president, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Deaf Media and Technology Association.
- Albert Wong Toung Chui, chairman, Sarawak Society for the Deaf.
- Sharifah Tahir, care partner, dementia and care partner advocate, Teepa Snow Positive Approach to Care (PAC) Certified Independent Advanced Consultant and Trainer, and Founder of UniquelyMeInitiatives.
- Edmund Lim, co-founder and president, Persatuan WeCareJourney, activist (child-disability, spinal muscular atrophy and rare diseases), and care partner.
- Wong Hui Min, president, National Early Childhood Intervention Council Malaysia.
- Simon Hoo, chairperson, Support for Parents, Infants and Children through Early Services (SPICES) Early Intervention Centre.
- Ng Lai-Thin, care partner and project lead, National Early Childhood Intervention Council, member, The OKU Rights Matter Project.
- Dr Wong Woan Yiing, consultant paediatrician, committee member, NETWORK for the Needs of Children with Disability Perak.
- Ai-Na Khor, chief executive, Asia Community Service.
- Mary Lam, chairperson, Pertubuhan Perkhidmatan Intervensi Awal (PPIA) Batu Pahat.
- Fatimah Saad, chairperson, Kiwanis Malaysia Academy, and charter president, Kiwanis Club Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI).
- Desiree Hersham Kaur, founder, Project Haans, co-founder of Adells Learning Centre, and vice-president, Kiwanis Club Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI).
- Dunstan Soo, Sarawak OKU Skills Development Association.
- Wong Poh Lin, director, Siloam House, A Home for People with Disability.
- Loh Kong Kean, honorary advisor, Society of the Blind in Malaysia (SBM).
- Feilina Feisol, board member, National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM), and board member, Ronald McDonald House of Charity (RMHC).
- Mary Shanthi Dairiam, Women’s Right to Equality Expert; former United Nations CEDAW committee member, January 2005 to December 2008, founding director, International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific, and former president, Women’s Aid Organisation, 2001 to 2003.
- Ivy Josiah, women’s rights advocate and gender educator, past president and executive director, Women’s Aid Organisation.
- Bina Ramanand, co-founder, Foreign Spouse Support Group, and women’s equality and gender justice activist.
- Dr. Lim Chee Han, main coordinator, Manifesto Rakyat, head of Political Cluster, Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia, co-convener, People’s Health Forum, co-founder, Agora Society Malaysia, and exco member, Family Frontiers.
- Nik Nadia Nik Mohd Yusoff, parent advocate.
- Wathshlah Naidu, gender and human rights activist.
- Tan Kuan Aw, artist with multiple disabilities and veteran disability rights activist.
- Moses Choo, former member, Majlis Kebangsaan Orang Kurang Upaya (MBOKU), 2016 to 2021.
- Anthony Alexander Chong, deaf advocate and Malaysian socio-linguistics expert and BIM poet.
- Haymasuthan Periasamy, deaf advocate and photographer.
- Tay Chia Yi, speech-language therapist and first Malaysian reading an MSc in Dementia Studies at Bangor University, United Kingdom.
- Dr Leela Koran, dementia care advocate and researcher (with particular interest in language loss and linguistic diversity).
- Prof Dr Toh Teck Hock, consultant paediatrician and child health and disabilities activist, vice-president, National Early Childhood Intervention Council, and advisor, National Family Support Group for Children and People with Special Needs.
- Dr Hasnah Toran, lecturer, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and autism expert.
- Prof Ruzita Amin, lecturer, International Islamic University Malaysia and OKU Fizikal.
- Dr Aizan Sofia, lecturer, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and OKU Fizikal.
- Major-General Yusri, disability awareness activist.
- Dr Shatesh Kumar, youth activist.
- Ahmad Daniel, deputy president, OKU Sentral.
- Association of Women Lawyers.
- Pertubuhan Orang Cacat Penglihatan Malaysia.
- Methodist Care Centre Sarawak.
- Sibu Autistic Association.
- Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation.
- Pertubuhan Perkhidmatan Intervensi Awal (PPIA), Batu Pahat.
- Persatuan Kanak-Kanak Istimewa Kajang Selangor (PKIK).
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