Article contributed by Najwa Hamid, Officer, Bar Council Civil Law & Law Reform Committee; and photos by Muhammad Bazli Naim b Abdul Azid and Jul Indra Tofan, Administrative Assistants, Bar Council
The Bar Council Civil Law and Law Reform Committee ("CLLRC") organised a public forum entitled "One Decade Later –– A Review of the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008", which was held on 19 Sept 2019 at Wisma MCA, Kuala Lumpur. The forum was timely, as the community of persons with disabilities is generally not contented with the efficacy of the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008, and has staged rallies to demand that the Act be repealed.
The forum commenced with the Welcoming Speech by the emcee, CLLRC committee member Shahrul Azwan b Mohammad Shukri. He highlighted that the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 is the sole legislation that recognises the rights of persons with disabilities, and should therefore be strengthened with amendments and regulations to implement and enforce measures to address disability discrimination, education, and residential provisions, among others.
He then invited Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor, President of the Malaysian Bar to deliver his Opening Speech. The President informed the participants that the views and suggestions expressed during the public forum would be collated for the preparation of a memorandum from the Malaysian Bar, which would be submitted to the Malaysian Government for consideration.
The guest of honour, Prof Dato' Noor Aziah bt Hj Mohd Awal, Child Commissioner, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia Malaysia, "SUHAKAM") delivered the Keynote Speech. She emphasised that amendments to the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 are a must, as one clear criticism of the Act is that while it promotes the protection of rights for persons with disabilities in Malaysia, it does not provide for penalties for discrimination, or for obstruction of these rights.
The following is a list of the panellists and the topics discussed at the public forum:
(1) Helen L M Chin, Member, CLLRC: The Need for Legal Amendments to the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 to Empower Persons with Disabilities in Malaysia;
(2) Francis Johen Adam, Honorary Secretary, Sarawak Cheshire Home: Has the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 Enhanced the Human Rights of Disabled Persons in Malaysia?;
(3) Dr Pang Jee Cheng, Lecturer (Special and Inclusive Education), SEGI University: Provisions for Employment and Long–Term Residential Facilities with Reference to the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008; and
(4) Pathmanathan Nalasamy, Senior Principal Assistant Director, Department for the Development of Persons with Disabilities, Department of Social Welfare, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development: Progress and Achievements for Disability–Related Issues in Light of the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008.
The public forum was moderated by T Tharumarajah, Co–Deputy Chairperson of CLLRC.
After the panel discussion, the moderator opened the floor for a question–and–answer session.
Shahrul Azwan and Fariz Ishraf b Rashid (also a CLLRC member) acted as rapporteurs for the public forum.
After the question–and–answer session, A G Kalidas, Chairperson of CLLRC delivered the Closing Speech, and presented the panellists with tokens of appreciation to mark the end of the forum.
The three–hour event –– which carried one CPD point –– was well–attended, with 80 participants comprising Members of the Bar, pupils in chambers, students, academics, and representatives of non–governmental and civil society organisations.