What is COMANGO?

COMANGO stands for Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process. At time of writing, there are 54 organisations are part of the coalition. Among them are: All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Voice of the Children (VOC), Yayasan Chow Kit, and Persatuan Guru-Guru Tadika.

What does COMANGO do?

According to their facebook page, COMANGO participates in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process conducted by the United Nations Human Rights Council. They have sent a report to the United Nations regarding the state of human rights in Malaysia that has been used to review Malaysia during the Universal Periodic Review process.

Amongst the issues in the report were the administration of justice, expression and participation, indigenous and migrant’s rights, and discrimination involving sexual orientation and race.

Why has COMANGO been banned?

Recently it has been declared by the Secretary General of the Home Ministry in the press that COMANGO is an unlawful organisation. The reason given as that COMANGO is not registered with the Registrar of Societies (ROS) and it promotes sexual and religious freedom contrary to traditional Islam teachings. According to reports, only 15 of the 54 societies supporting COMANGO are registered under the Act.

OK, so why has it really been banned?

It may be a political move. There has been some anti-COMANGO sentiment from religious groups such as Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) who launched a campaign called ‘Sejuta Ummah Tolak Comango’. They claim that COMANGO is spreading Western “liberalism” teachings.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHR) has said this banning “appears to be an act of reprisal” for COMANGO’s report on human rights. The Malaysian Bar has claimed that the ban is “illegal, flawed and made in bad faith.”

What next for the NGOs under COMANGO?

According to a press statement by COMANGO, they will continue to move as a coalition and carry out their activities “in accordance with internationally agreed principles underpinning the freedoms of association and expression” and have urged the government to rescind the statement made by the Secretary of the Home Ministry.

How will this affect human rights in Malaysia?

For the NGOs under COMANGO, they can still freely champion the respective freedoms that they have been fighting for since the inception of their respective organisations provided that they do so in accordance with the law.

Many of the organisations under COMANGO are registered under the Registrar of Societies and easily recognisable as promoters of human rights such as Suara Rakyat
Malaysia (SUARAM), Amnesty International Malaysia and Women’s Aid Organisation. In a press statement, COMANGO said that the rights they champion are within the Federal Constitution.

Abdul Qayyum Jumadi