Malaysiakini Letter

Possibly impossible - what say you...

Saleh Mohammed  |  Published:  |  Modified:

A few days ago I read an article written by the de facto Law Minister on the Sexual Offences Against Children 2017 Bill. Congratulations, Azalina Othman Said, for a job well done where MPs from both sides consensually agreed for the passing of the bill.

It was a journey of making the impossible, possible. Various stakeholders were working tirelessly in the fight to protect children against sexual crimes. Difficulties and realities on the ground were exposed and it showed that existing laws were inadequate to cover all issues.

The bill was extensive with an objective to provide for better protection of children against sexual offences and to safeguard the well-being of children. It even urges specialised judges and prosecutors equipped with sufficient training and other fundamental changes such as how children testify, judicial perceptions of children's credibility and the exercise of greater judicial control over how children are cross-examined.

She said, “A law can only do so much but to put a full stop to this, we needed to take charge of prevention by providing awareness about child sexual crimes... we were of the view that Permata which plays an important role in early childhood education would be the best to take up this role. Permata will now take the baton to lead a continuous campaign nationwide at the state level and I hope the public will continue to support our effort.”

However, I am not clear as to which ministry the powers will be delegated to. Generally, an Act may delegate power to a minister to make orders, regulations or rules, known as secondary (or subordinate) legislation.

The point here is, it would make good sense if the ministry involved is to take charge in providing awareness about sexual crimes instead of Permata. I guess the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry should take the responsibility. Just like the urgings for specialised judges and prosecutors equipped with sufficient training, it should also call for specialised minister and staff to carry out this exercise.

The ministry is entrusted with the responsibility to promote and raise public perception on the importance of the role of women and family institution. It is also responsible for the creation and promotion of community and social awareness programmes as well as the progression of the nation’s social development objectives aspects especially those relating to social welfare. It has the infrastructure and staff to do the job well.

Fact is, it was during the National Women’s Day celebration on Aug 25, 2016 when the prime minister announced a special task force was to be set up to look into ways to combat sexual crimes against children.

Further, in a paper, ‘An Analysis of the System for Prevention and Response to Abuse, Violence and Exploitation against Children’ (commissioned through a joint collaboration of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and Unicef Malaysia in 2013), it was found that there was a high level of awareness among the public on child sexual abuse and neglect in general. However, awareness levels vary from state to state.

As for Permata, it was initially set up for early child education and now its extended programmes are purpose-driven modules crafted for suitability of every age group. I think Permata does not have the required expertise and resources to carry out this exercise unless more funds have to be poured in for training and setting up of an additional division and programmes.

This would unnecessarily delay effective implementation and enforcement of the Act. And of course, duplication. Further, it would be a different ministry with the delegated powers and responsibilities. It may just be another coffee-and-curry-puff affair at Permata.

Duplication causes wastage

Recently, there was an urging from the chief secretary to stop wastage. “This wastage should stop. Don’t serve food at events which is held after a meal. Just serve mineral water if need be,” he said.

I like Azalina’s warning to all the child sexual predators - Hentikan! Remember, #UCanRunButUCantHIDE. Trust this applies to the current ‘talk of the town’ i.e. corruptors, too.

It is heartening to note that Azalina has always been of the view that it's not the Parliament who should be telling Rakyat what to do but the rakyat should be directing the Parliament.

In this instance, I am not directing the Parliament but just my two sen worth.

In conclusion, it may be ‘possibly impossible’ for Permata to carry out the awareness exercise effectively.

What say you...

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