Persons With Disabilities Currently Without A Voice In Parliament – Boleh Space & SIUMAN

The Malaysian government must involve the disabled community in all decision-making processes that involve us, which is commensurate with the Prime Minister’s vow that “No one will be marginalised under my government”.

Today marks the eleventh day the Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) community has been without representation in the Dewan Negara after three years of Ras Adiba Radzi serving as the Senator representing the PWD community.

Until today, there has been no announcement from the Malaysian government about the process of appointing a senator representing PwDs to fill the vacancy, or if the term of the senator representing PwDs will be extended. The vacancy should not be allowed to continue.

After the demise of Prof Dr Ismail Salleh in 2009, we had to wait for four years before Bathmavathi Krishnan was appointed as the second senator representing PwDs in the Dewan Negara in November 2013.

After Bathmavathi had completed her second term in November 2019, the appointment of the senator representing PwDs took several months. Ideally, the nomination process, including re-nomination as well as the candidate evaluation process, should have begun much earlier in order to ensure the PWD community is duly represented in Parliament just as much as any other non-disabled citizen of Malaysia.

Apart from that, the process of nomination and evaluation of senatorial candidates representing PwDs seems to be done in secrecy. This is against the principles of transparency and accountability.

The election and appointment of the Senator representing the disabled community should not be done solely based on superficial identity politics. Just because a candidate is disabled, the candidate will not necessarily be able to represent us effectively.

On the other hand, the selection and appointment of Senators representing PwDs should be based on important qualities.

In our media statement in Bahasa Malaysia dated February 18, 2023, as well as its English language version dated March 6, 2023, which was jointly released with SIUMAN and several PwD organisations, we suggested that the Malaysian government improve the nomination, screening, and appointment process for the positions of the Senator representing PwDs, members of the National Council for the Disabled (MKBOKU), and members of the Technical Committees under the MKBOKU.

We reiterate our recommendation that the process of nomination, re-nomination, and evaluation of senatorial candidates representing the PwDs be done in an open, transparent, and responsible manner.

The Malaysian government needs to be clear, committed, and firm in this matter. The government should consider this as part of issues critical to the institutional reform agenda. We urge the government to take the following initial steps:

  • The process and information regarding the nomination should be made transparently, in clear and easy-to-understand language and in a format that is accessible by all Malaysians, including PWDs. We have a right to know when and how the process takes place. The call for nominations should be disseminated through various media channels, including social media.
  • The profile of each candidate must be shared with the general public via a platform that is easily accessible by the public, especially by PwDs. The government can emulate the Australian Electoral Commission in this matter, not only for the profiles of senatorial candidates representing PwDs but also for non-disabled candidates so that the nomination system for senators is more transparent.
  • The process of selection and evaluation of senatorial candidates must be broadcast to the general public via a medium that can be accessed by all, including PWDs, similar to Parliament sessions and Special Meetings of the Dewan Negara. These mediums include print, television, and digital and social media. Accessibility aspects, such as the provision of Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia (BIM) interpreters and closed captions should be among the inherent features throughout the broadcast.
  • The government should also create an independent committee that will evaluate the senatorial candidates. At least 75 per cent of the total members of the evaluation and the selection committee must be among PwDs with expertise and experience in PwD affairs. Committee members must also declare any form of conflict of interest, if any.
  • We would like to remind the government that only one person carries our voice in Parliament. According to the 1 Per Cent PwD Policy, there should be three Senators representing PwDs, which then allows for three of the seven categories of PwDs in Malaysia to be represented at any one time in Parliament.

We want a representative who can truly speak for our community. We deserve and need to be more meaningfully involved in the process of choosing our representative(s).

This is in line with Article 29(b) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). In the same spirit, the government should also take into account the views that have been issued by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) in General comment No. 7 (2018) on the participation of persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their through their representative organizations, in the implementation and monitoring of the Convention.

In line with the commitment given by the government to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030, it is very important for it to create a fair, peaceful, and inclusive Malaysian society (Goal 16). The government should prove its commitment to make Goals 16.6 and 16.7 a reality.

The Malaysian government must involve the disabled community in all decision-making processes that involve us, which is commensurate with the Prime Minister’s vow that “No one will be marginalised under my government”, and also in line with SDG 2030.

Boleh Space is a social enterprise as well as an advocacy and awareness movement for disability rights, led 100 per cent by persons with disabilities. SIUMAN is a collective of mental patients and allies fighting for socioeconomic & political equity & equality for the mentally ill.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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