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The International Disabled People’s Movement: Malaysia

Monday 07-01-2019 - 16:07

Many charities, disabled people’s organisations and students’ unions marked Disability History Month with a range of events around the theme of empowerment and inclusion. NUS Disabled Students’ Campaign also marked the date by calling for international solidarity amongst disabled people from around the world, recognising that we have a shared struggle, and our movements in different countries and regions can learn from each other and grow. Our colleagues in Malaysia from the disabled people’s organisation Harapan Oku (Hope of Persons with Disabilities) have kindly written for us about their struggles and movement.

We were established in 2018 with an open letter to the newly elected Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, signed by a coalition of individuals and non-governmental organisations calling ourselves Harapan OKU (Malay acronym for Hope of Persons with Disabilities). Our letter called for stricter enforcement of the rights for persons with disabilities in Malaysia. With the support of 122 partner organisations, Harapan OKU stated our demands:  

  1. Replace the 10-year-old Persons with Disabilities Act with a Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) or any similarly named act with extensive powers and not merely administrative; and;
  2. Establish a Commission to implement the Act which includes; a tribunal as a redress mechanism and compel the state to exercise due diligence.

 

These twin demands are crucial to fighting systemic discrimination, seeking compensation for personal grievances and complaints of persons with disabilities, as also upholding the rights of persons with disabilities.

 

The existing Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 is toothless and has not served to uphold the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. In Malaysia there is a lack of enforcement and implementation of our policies when they affect disabled people. For example, according to the Streets, Drainage and Building Act 1984 (UBBL34A), it should be mandatory for old buildings that are to be renovated to be made accessibility compliant in most states since 1994 however, this is ignored with impunity. That there is no compulsion to implement this and there are no penalties to enforce the mandate is evidence that the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 is inadequate.

 

Realising full well that the road to achieving the two goals is strewn with challenges, the movement has sought to be strategic, informed and motivated from the beginning. Harapan OKU made its public debut with a rally and press conference on 1 July 2018. The venue was the oldest public recreational park in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur and was much publicised in the media. After meeting the Deputy Prime Minister in 9th July 2018, Harapan OKU is organising a conference with other disabled people’s organisations and agencies to provide the Government with the rationale to have the Commission established in the near future.

 

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international students, Disability History Month, Disabled People's Movement, Disabled Students,

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