‘Adopt NMP process to pick rep for ASEAN rights body’

The Sunday Times
23 August 2009
‘Adopt NMP process to pick rep for ASEAN rights body’
By Kor Kian Beng

Singapore’s representative to an ASEAN human rights body should be picked in a process similar to the selection of Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP).

This is one key proposal that Singapore rights advocacy group MARUAH will make to the Government, said its chairman Braema Mathi.

MARUAH (Malay for dignity) hosted a public dialogue and workshop yesterday to gather feedback on the body – the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights. It will be launched in October at the ASEAN Summit in Thailand.

The 10 ASEAN states are naming representatives to the body, which will promote and protect human rights in the region.

Ms Mathi appealed to the Government to involve civil society groups and let them name nominees.

She suggested the NMP selection process as a model: NMP candidates are named by various sectors or individuals before a select committee screens them.

Said Ms Mathi, a former NMP herself: ‘This will make it an open, transparent process. It’s also good to involve the groups because the representative will not only represent the Government but also the people.’

She added that MARUAH, whose members include veteran lawyer Peter Low and former NMP Siew Kum Hong, will send nominations if the process opens up.

Human rights professor Sriprapha Petcharamesree of Mahidol University, who spoke at the event, said a committee is picking the Thai representative. This will foster openness, transparency and participation, she said.

Former ASEAN secretary-general Ong Keng Yong told The Sunday Times that MARUAH has the right to make the NMP suggestion, and this is for the Foreign Ministry to consider.

But he said civil society groups should understand that the Government will weigh several factors. It will choose someone who understands ‘bureaucratic processes’ involved in ASEAN. The person must also work well with ASEAN representatives.

‘The Government’s position is to pick the best person for the job, not just someone who understands the points of view of the civil society groups,’ he added.

He tempered expectations of the body and urged the near-100 participants to work with it creatively.

‘We can’t expect it to deliver results overnight,’ he said.

MARUAH will also recommend that the Government and ASEAN Secretariat appoint a panel to support the work of the representative and invest money to promote human rights awareness.

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