Malaysia Signs The Convention On The Rights of Persons With Disabilities

Thanks to Lilei Chow who forwarded news articles on Malaysia becoming the latest signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Malaysia signed the convention on April 8, 2008. This is a milestone in the disability movement in our country.

However, the same news articles did not mention if Malaysia also signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and whether Malaysia had reservations towards some of the articles in the CRPD. The Optional Protocol enables individuals whose rights are violated to seek redress from the Committee of Persons with Disabilities after exhausting all the remedies of national laws.

The United Nations Enable page on Convention and Protocol Signatories and Ratification listed Malaysia as having only signed the Convention. The government should show its full commitment by also signing the Protocol and at the same time ratify the Convention soonest possible.

At the same time, the government should also consider drawing up an anti-discrimination law to protect the rights of disabled people. The Persons With Disabilities Bill is non-punitive and therefore toothless. The Uniform Building By-Law 34-A (UBBL 34A) under the Streets, Drainage and Buildings Act must also be strictly enforced to ensure that all public buildings are fully accessible. It is high time the By-Law includes external environment as it currently does not require that those places be accessible to disabled people.

The UBBL 34A is a good example of how the rights of disabled people are not not being protected by a piece of legislation that has been in existence since the mid-90s. The government has had fifteen years to do what is required in the By-Law but they have done little. Therefore I wonder how the Persons with Disabilitie Bill will be any different when past laws have proven otherwise.

Nevertheless, having signed the Convention, the government should now get down to implementing the policies on disabilities to ensure that disabled people are accorded their equal and rightful place in society. Policies that discriminates should be removed with immediate effect. Infrastructure in the forms of public transport and built environment should be made accessible to all.

The government can begin by ensuring that RapidKL, Rapid Penang, Star LRT and all government facilities are accessible to disabled people within a fixed time frame. The other issues that must be looked into are education, employment and the provision of independent living support to people with severe disabilities. Are we up to it? Time will tell. Until then, I am reservedly optimistic. I have experienced too many empty promises and poorly enforced legislation to believe that things will change for the better any time soon.

The Star Online
Thursday April 10, 2008
Malaysia signs UN convention on disabled

NEW YORK: Malaysia has signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations headquarters here.

The Malaysian Government was represented by Datuk Faizah Mohd Tahir, Secretary General of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, said a statement issued by her entourage.

The signing was witnessed by Annebeth Rosenboom, chief of the treaty section at the UN’s Office of Legal Affairs, Malaysia Consular at New York Raja Nurshirwan Zainal Abidin, and National Population and Family Development director Aminah Abdul Rahman.

The Convention entitles the disabled to the full enjoyment of all human rights and ensures full and effective participation as well as inclusion in society, on an equal basis with others.

The eight general principles of the Convention are:

* Respect for inherent dignity and individual autonomy; * Non-discrimination; * Full and effective participation and inclusion in society; * Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity; * Equality of opportunity; * Accessibility; * Gender equality and respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities; and * Respect for the rights of children with disabilities to develop and preserve their identities.

The signing shows the Government’s concern and commitment following the formulation of the Policy on Persons with Disabilities and its Plan of Action, the Persons with Disabilities Act 2007 and the recent appointment of a disabled person as a senator, the statement said.

April 09, 2008 18:44 PM

Malaysia Signs UN Treaty On Rights Of Persons With Disabilities

KUALA LUMPUR, April 9 (Bernama) — Malaysia is now a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty that upholds and safeguards the rights of people with disabilities to be independent and to live with dignity and respect.

Women, Family and Community Development Ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Faizah Mohd Tahir signed the treaty for Malaysia at a ceremony held at the United Nations’s (UN) headquarters in New York Tuesday.

According to a statement from the ministry, the signing of the convention was witnessed by UN’s Office of Legal Affairs’ Chief of Treaty Section Annebeth Rosenboom, Malaysia’s Counsellor in New York Raja Nurshirwan Zainal Abidin and Director of National Population and Family Development Aminah Abdul Rahman.

The long-awaited convention underlines eight general principles which include respect for inherent dignity and individual autonomy, non-discrimination, full and effective participation and inclusion in society, respect for difference, and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity.

The statement said the signing of the convention showed the government’s concern and commitment following the formulation of the Policy on Persons with Disabilities and its plan of action.


Related entries:
The Malaysian Perspective On The Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities
Persons With Disabilities Bill 2007 – All Bark And No Bite

50 Posts to Independence – Post No. 8

Palmdoc tagged me to participate in the 50 Posts To Independence project initiated by Nizam Bashir. Here it goes:

Come Merdeka, patriotism will be the word that politicians throw around to make us feel guilty that we are not doing enough for our beloved Malaysia. But are politicians themselves doing enough? Patriotism is not only about flying flags on this significant occasion. It is about building a nation where everyone can enjoy the fruits of success from the progress and development of the country.

For the past 23 years, I have seen the tremendous growth achieved by our country from my wheelchair. The construction of the Penang Bridge was completed shortly after I became a quadriplegic. Proton Saga, the first national car, was launched around the same time. Now, we have the Petronas Twin Towers – one of the tallest buildings in the world. We can also travel with relative ease the entire length of the peninsula from Bukit Kayu Hitam in the north right up to the Johor Causeway in the extreme south on the North-South Expressway.

As a nation, we have gone far from that fateful day on October 15 1984 when I dived into a swimming pool, broke my neck and became paralysed from chest down. From that point on, I had to learn to live again, very much like a baby who has to learn everything from scratch. However, a baby born on the same day that that my life took a tragic turn would have graduated with a degree, be gainfully employed and living life to the fullest.

On the other hand, my life has stood still since. The journeys outside my home are always fraught with barriers. There is no public transport to take me to places that I need to go. Many buildings, walkways and other public amenities are not accessible. 23 years ago it was like this. 23 years later it is still the same. While the nation has moved on by leaps and bounds, I am still stuck at the starting line.

This predicament is not unique to me alone. Disabled people all over Malaysia are in the same situation – marginalised, ignored and discriminated against. Something is not right somewhere when disabled people have to go to the streets to protest injustices perpetrated against them. Glaring examples are the demonstrations against RapidKL and Air Asia for ignoring the transportation needs of disabled people. We have to resort to this because things seldom work out through polite dialogues behind closed doors, be it with the government or service providers.

It is sad that we are driven to vent our frustrations this way. Whose failure is it that after 50 years of the nation’s independence, we, the disabled people of Malaysia, are still struggling to gain ours? We are neither asking for sympathy nor charity. We are neither asking for privileges nor special treatment. What we want are opportunities to be part of the society that we live in.

We want to get an education. We want to get employment that commensurates with our skills. We want to make friends. We want to fall in love and get married. We want to own a house we can call home. We want to have children. We want to enjoy leisurely strolls in the park. We want to enjoy movies and concerts. We want to travel and see the world. We want to be citizens who can contribute meaningfully to the growth of the nation. Those are the aspirations of everyone in Malaysia, disabled people included. Unfortunately, we are not able to enjoy many of those.

There is a need to change the mindset that disability is the cause of the problems that disabled people are facing in society today. If we look into it hard enough, we will realise that attitudinal barriers are the main factors why people are disabled. There are still widespread misconceptions that facilities for disabled people are extras, privileges and incur additional expenses to be included. What these people fail to see is that such accessible facilities benefit everyone including senior citizens, pregnant women and adults with prams, among others.

The most distressing part of this is that the government is not taking a proactive approach to the resolve it. Why is there a need for protests by disabled people to move the government into action? And these also are done on a piecemeal basis. When we protested against RapidKL, the government told the bus operator to look into the needs of disabled people. When we protested against Air Asia, the government asked the airline to resolve the issue. Looking at the way the government is handling these issues, disabled people will still be protesting against discrimination come the next 50 years.

Resolving disability issues are not only about building ramps and toilets and running an accessible public transport system. Those are only small pieces of the bigger picture. To resolve the problems faced by disabled people, there is a need to mainstream disability. There is a need to view disability as society’s problem as a whole rather than the exclusive problem of the minority.

Some people are born disabled. Some people become disabled in mid-life from accidents and diseases. Some people become disabled due to old age. No one can be certain that they will never become disabled. No one can be certain that their loved ones will never become disabled. Therefore, this is an issue that everyone should be concerned with. This is an issue that the government who cares for the wellbeing of the people who elected them should be concerned with.

My Hari Kemerdekaan wish is to see that the rights and dignity of disabled people in Malaysia are respected according to what is stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Some of my disabled friends have waited 50 years to see changes only to be disappointed by the lack of improvement in the overall system where mainstreaming disability is concerned. I hope disabled people of my generation do not have to wait in futility for that long to see changes. And I hope our patriotic Yang Berhormats will not only encourage us to display the Jalur Gemilang during Hari Kemerdekaan but find that spark of conscience in their hearts to do what is right so that no one is left behind when our country becomes a developed nation in 2020.

I am tagging Sashi. Here is the baton, mate!

Here are the posts in this project so far:

50, 49, 48, 47, 46, 45, 44, 43, 42, 41, 40, 39, 38, 37, 36, 35, 34, 33, 32,31, 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, – this is it.