“In accordance with section 5(2) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act (the Act), the King, on recommendation of the Prime Minister, appoints SUHAKAM Commissioners. Section 11A of the Act provides for the establishment of a Selection Committee to support the Prime Minister, comprised of the Chief Secretary to the Government, the Chairperson of the Commission, and three (3) members of civil society, appointed by the Prime Minister, who have knowledge of or practical experience in human rights matters. The Act therefore provides the Prime Minister with discretion to nominate the three civil society candidates on the Selection Panel.
The SCA is still of the view that, while the Prime Minister must consult the Selection Committee, there should be a legal requirement that recommendations be made from the list of candidates that were been determined by the independent Selection Committee to be suitable for appointment.
The SCA highlights that the combination of these two factors leaves open the potential for political interference.
The SCA acknowledges the amendments prepared by SUHAKAM to its enabling law to address these concerns and encourages SUHAKAM to continue to advocate for the adoption of those amendments.
The SCA is of the view that the process currently enshrined in the Law is not sufficiently broad and transparent. In particular, it does not:
– require the advertisement of vacancies;
– establish clear and uniform criteria upon which the Selection Committee assesses the merit of applicants; and
– promote broad consultation and / or participation in the application, screening, selection and appointment process.
It is critically important to ensure the formalization of a clear, transparent and participatory selection and appointment process for an NHRI’s decision-making body in relevant legislation, regulations or binding administrative guidelines, as appropriate. A process that promotes merit-based selection and ensures pluralism is necessary to ensure the independence of, and public confidence in, the senior leadership of an NHRI.
The SCA encourages SUHAKAM to advocate for the formalization and application of a process that includes requirements to:
a) Publicize vacancies broadly;
b) Maximize the number of potential candidates from a wide range of societal groups and educational qualifications;
c) Promote broad consultation and / or participation in the application, screening, selection and appointment process;
d) Assess applicants on the basis of pre-determined, objective and publicly-available criteria; and
e) Select members to serve in their individual capacity rather than on behalf of the organization they represent.”