Sunday May 9, 2004

Strong support puts Malaysia on UN Rights Commission

BY JOHAN FERNANDEZ

NEW YORK: Malaysia has been elected to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights for a three-year term beginning January 2005.
The 54-member UN Social and Economic Council (Ecosoc), which the commission comes under, met earlier this week and also elected Pakistan and South Korea to fill the three slots for Asia.
Malaysia secured 51 of the possible 54 votes, the highest number in the election, followed by South Korea 45 and Pakistan 43. The other Asian country that had vied for a seat but failed was Vietnam with 23 votes.
In the Western Europe group, the countries voted in were Canada, Finland and France while Mexico will represent Latin America and Caribbean states.
The human rights commission – comprising 53 members – meets each year in Geneva, deals on issues like the international bill of rights, international declarations or conventions on civil liberties, the status of women, freedom of information, protection of minorities, prevention of discrimination and other matters concerning human rights.
Malaysia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Datuk Rastam Mohd Isa, who was delighted with the strong support for Malaysia, said it was important to be on the commission.
“By being on the commission it is not only an honour for the country but also for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of which Malaysia is the chairman,” he said.
He said NAM took a keen interest in issues like development of which human rights was an important part.
Despite Malaysia having an advantage by being on Ecosoc, officials of the Malaysian delegation did not take chances but worked hard to lobby for support among the council members.
“The very fact that we got such strong support shows that Malaysia is respected in the international community,” Rastam said.
This is the third time that Malaysia will be serving on the Commission on Human Rights.
It first served from 1993-98 and again from 2001-03.
Rastam also said that Malaysia was one of three Asian countries on the Commission on Population and Development for a four-year term starting on Jan 1.


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