Why the HRW report matters


We must constantly remind ourselves that we can treat each other better.

Scott Ng, Free Malaysia Today

Human Rights Watch does a necessary job, a hard one, and often a thankless one, of tabulating the numerous offences done in the name of governance again and again, year after year, only to see the Malaysian government shrug it off and go about business as usual. Even after failing to make the grade following 2014′s sedition blitz, it’s highly unlikely that our government will take any form of action to correct itself.

Human rights probably takes a back seat in the administration of this country given the power struggles and plots that preoccupy the people who are suppposed to govern and lead.

Perhaps that is just the nature of power. Experience has shown that the richer and more influential people become, the less they feel they are leashed to the established order of law and society.

A lot has been spoken about “human rights” by Malaysia’s conservative circles – mostly derogatory, claiming the very idea to be an insidious western plot to degrade Malaysian Islamic values, but the truth is far simpler. The idea behind human rights is to respect each other as equals, under the banner of being human. It comes from the belief that none of us is any less than the other, and that the least of us should be accorded the same status as the most elite. Perhaps that is what secretly scares conservatives – the idea of equality.

Equality is a wonderful thing. It bestows equal opportunity for success and failure depending on one’s own determination and resolve. In a world of equal opportunity, the only time someone is disadvantaged is when he is his lacking in some area or other. Without privileged systems to assure the success of members of the elite, they would have to contend with the fact that their failures are due to their own lack of merit and ability. From the viewpoint of someone used to standing atop others by hook or by crook, this is unacceptable.

Human rights are an attempt to set a basic standard on how we are to treat each other, without the classifications created to separate us from each other. They are a recognition that we are one people, a super organism made of many parts. To quote Carl Sagan, “The old appeals to racial, sexual, and religious chauvinism, and to rabid nationalist fervour are beginning not to work. A new consciousness is developing which sees the Earth as a single organism, and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed. We are one planet.”