Over 2,000 protesters object to calls to ratify UN rights treaty

A big crowd gathered today to protest plans to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

KUALA LUMPUR: More than 2,000 people gathered to protest against Putrajaya’s plan to ratify the United Nation’s (UN) International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

The protesters had gathered at the car park of the Masjid Jamek mosque here and marched to the front of the Sogo shopping mall in the city centre on Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman.

The protest was organised by the Youth wings of both Umno and PAS.

Among those present were Youth chiefs Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki (Umno) and Khalil Abdul Hadi (PAS).

Asyraf said today’s protest was only the beginning as similar gatherings would be held in other states too.

“We will go from state to state so that the people will understand the issue and not be conned by them (PH leadership).

“If they continue to be arrogant and want to proceed with the ICERD, we will gather with 10,000 protesters in Kuala Lumpur,” he told the crowd in front of the Sogo shopping mall.

He also said Umno and PAS needed to work together in the matter.

Khalil questioned the need to ratify the ICERD as the people are living in harmony.

“It is enshrined in the Federal Constitution that Islam is the official religion and other races and religions will not face discrimination,” he said.

Shouts of “Allahuakbar” and “hapus ICERD” (get rid of ICERD) were heard from the crowd, who were mostly clad in white as a symbol of protest.

This comes in the wake of several government leaders, including P Waythamoorthy, a minister in the prime minister’s department, announcing that talk of ratifying ICERD would commence next February.

Last Wednesday saw a similar protest outside the gates of the Parliament building by some 40 Islamic NGOs.

This is due to concerns that ratifying the ICERD would contravene Article 153 of the Federal Constitution which gives preference to Bumiputeras.

Article 153 is said to go against Article 2.2 of ICERD, which states any measures taken for the development or protection of a particular racial group shall cease after due course.

Waythamoorthy previously told FMT that Article 2.2 of ICERD does not contravene Article 153 as positive discrimination, or affirmative action, cannot be wholly considered as discrimination. He also said it is possible to ratify ICERD with reservations.

Under ICERD, parties are obliged “when the circumstances so warrant” to use positive discrimination policies for racial groups previously suffering from discrimination to guarantee “the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

The policy has been internationally sought in bridging inequalities in employment, education, pay and so on around the world.

Waythamoorthy has also said the government is committed to ratifying all United Nations conventions relating to human rights, only three of which have been signed by Malaysia since 1995.

ICERD was brought into the limelight again in Parliament last month after opposition backbencher Khairy Jamaluddin reminded Putrajaya that ratifying all core UN treaties would “cause an impact” on racial discrimination should they be enforced as law.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has since said Malaysia would eventually sign ICERD but warned that it would not be easy.