We, the undersigned child advocates and civil society organizations for children, urge the government to expeditiously establish an independent Children’s Commission that will promptly act on issues affecting children, as well as safeguard, uphold, and promote child rights.
The pandemic has revealed serious and systemic gaps in the care and protection of children, which have yet to be dealt with and resolved.
A single Commissioner for Children under Suhakam does not have the necessary time, authority, and resources to effectively address these gaps and guide the government on how to prioritise resource allocations to ensure the well-being of children. The time to act is now; we must stop failing our children.
An independent Children’s Commission which reports directly to Parliament will enable all MPs to have oversight over children in Malaysia. Monitoring their rights and progress is fundamental to the growth and future of our nation and society. Should today’s leaders fail our children, that is a failure of stewardship of the nation’s future leaders, voters and workforce.
An independent, adequately funded Children’s Commission comprising commissioners with expertise in issues affecting children and staff would be able to support ministries, departments, and agencies by providing their much-needed expertise to strengthen policies, processes, and procedures.
Lawmakers, ministers, and civil servants who are subjected to transfers cannot be expected to be subject matter experts. A Children’s Commission with commissioners who have a strong grasp of the realities of diverse groups of children in marginalised circumstances would be in a position to examine the impact of laws, policies, and procedures on children.
The proposed commissioners would also be able to articulate effectively recommendations that align laws, policies, and procedures with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and two of its three Optional Protocols that Malaysia has ratified, as well as Malaysian legislation covering child rights.
The Children’s Commission must be comprehensive and have a wide scope to cover all critical children-related areas, including the following (not exhaustive):
- Strengthen child protection.
- Work to end child poverty.
- Improve child health service delivery.
- Advance inclusive education for children with diverse disabilities.
- Improve early childhood care, education, and early intervention services.
- Improve the status of migrants, refugees, and the stateless.
- Improve services for children in conflict with the law.
- Prevent the detention of any child.
- End child marriage and reduce teenage pregnancies.
- Support indigenous children and remove all barriers to children of Malaysian parents from acquiring citizenship.
The Children’s Commission must be able to recognise and remedy violations of children’s rights as they occur by applying good practices and human rights standards.
Any delay to the wellbeing and protection of even a single child can have devastating and long-lasting consequences. Thus, any delay in establishing an independent Children’s Commission will have significant and long-lasting consequences for the wellbeing of all children in Malaysia.
The Bill to establish a Children’s Commission is a crucial step towards aligning Malaysia with its commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
We would like the Prime Minister and Cabinet to know that we, child advocates and civil society organisations, are firmly behind this initiative and offer our full support. It is the single most important plan that the government will put forward for the betterment of children in Malaysia.
Many thanks to the Prime Minister’s Department for being the prime driver of this Bill, and for ensuring meaningful engagement with stakeholders, including civil society.
We extend our blessings as the Cabinet deliberates on this and pray that an independent Children’s Commission will be supported and proposed to Parliament for consideration.
It is our hope that all lawmakers, regardless of party affiliation, care enough about Malaysia’s children to unanimously support the passage of the Bill for the establishment of an independent Children’s Commission.
Child Rights Advocates and Civil Society Organisations:
- Dr Amar-Singh HSS, consultant paediatrician, child disability rights activist, and advisor, National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC).
- Srividhya Ganapathy, co-chairperson, CRIB Foundation (Child Rights Innovation and Betterment).
- Yuenwah San, the OKU Rights Matter Project.
- Anit Kaur Randhawa, member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group, vice president (legal), Medico Legal Society Malaysia (MLSM), and member, the OKU Rights Matter Project.
- PH Wong, Childline Foundation.
- Dr Selva Kumar Sivapunniam, consultant paediatrician and president, Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA).
- Cathryn Anila, president and founder, Vanguards4Change.
- Desiree Kaur, founder, Project Haans, and vice president, Kiwanis Club of TTDI.
- Dr Amelia Alias, researcher, Childline Foundation.
- Meera Samanther, disability-gender activist, parent advocate, committee member, Association of Women Lawyers (AWL), member of the Bar Council Civil Law and Law Reform Committee, and member of the Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.
- Association of Toy Libraries Malaysia.
- Goh Siu Lin, family and child rights advocate.
- Prof Noor Aziah Mohd Awal, commissioner of SUHAKAM.
- Dr Kamal Kenny, chairman of FRHAM.
- Yap Sook Yee, founder, WeCareJourney.
- Syed Azmi, child activist.
- Kasthuri Krishnan, family and child rights advocate.
- Azira Aziz, lawyer.
- RD Ramesh Patel, chairman, Pertubuhan Kebajikan Vivekananda Rembau.
- Make it Right Movement, Petaling Jaya.
- Dr Hartini Zainudin, child activist.
- Women’s Centre for Change (WCC).
- Ajeet Kaur, co-chairperson, CRIB Foundation.
- Lee Teong Hooi, treasurer, CRIB Foundation.
- National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO).
- Robyn Choi, deputy president, National Human Rights Society (HAKAM).
- Margaret Loy, founder, Community Transformation Initiative Bhd.
- Ananti Rajasingam, Yayasan Chow Kit.
- Sabah Women’s Action-Resource Group (SAWO).
- CRIB Foundation.
- Association of Women Lawyers.
- Sisters in Islam.Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).
- Protect and Save the Children.
- Malaysian Council for Child Welfare.
- End CSEC Network.
- Foreign Spouses Support Group (FSSG).
- Persatuan Tadika Malaysia (PTM).
- Looi Lydia, advisor, Persatuan Guru-Guru Tadika Perak.
- Persatuan Pengasuhan dan Perkembangan Awal Kanak-kanak Berdaftar Malaysia (PPBM).
- Jeannie Low, Play Unlimited.
- Melissa Akhir, Kemban Kolektif.
- Majlis Pengasuhan dan Pendidikan Awal Kanak Kanak Malaysia (ECCE Council).
- Malaysian Assoc of Professional Early Childhood Educators (MAPECE).
- Malaysian Child Resource Institute (MCRI)
- Kennedy Michael, Community Action Nexus.
- ANAK Sabah.
- Roslizawati Mohd Ali, Malaysian Women’s Action for Tobacco Control and Health (MyWATCH).
- Dr Raj Karim, Majlis Kebajikan Kanak Kanak Msia (MKKM).
- Shamsinah Shariff, president, National Association of Early Childhood Care and Education Malaysia (NAECCEM).
- Nurazianty Nawawi, Kelab Rekreasi Pengasuh Malaysia (KRPM).
- Buku Jalanan Chow Kit.
- Cikgu Rahayu, BJCK.
- Study Hub Asia.
- Jameyah Sheriff, Sekolah Belantara.
- Asna Hidayah, Incredible Hearts.
- Pam Gunaretnam, Humankind.
- Persatuan Kebajikan Sokongan Keluarga Selangor & KL (Family Frontiers).
- Sarawak Women for Women Society.
- Malaysian Association of Social Workers.
- Reproductive Health Association Kelantan (REHAK).
- Hasan Al Akraa Refugee Emergency Fund.
- Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS).
- Liliane Fan Guatanyeo Foundation.
- Montessori Association Malaysia (MAM).
- Be My Protector (BMP).
- Federation of Malaysian Sri Lankan Organisations.
- Malaysian Rare Disease Society.
- OPIS International.
- Dr Irene Cheah and Dr. Mary Marret, MPA Child Protection sub committee.
- Childline Young Leaders Programme Cohort 1.
- Petaling Jaya Child Council (PJCC).
- Dr Indra Sevarajah, chairperson, World Crises Intervention Commission, World Federation of Music Therapy Council.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.