PETALING JAYA: A Muslim activist who had urged the government to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) said the decision not to sign the global treaty was the right thing to do to in view of the provocations from its opponents.
Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa said he was not surprised by the decision announced by the Prime Minister’s Office today.
“A few weeks ago, the government talked about ratifying the ICERD, among other UN conventions, and I think it was committed to doing so.
“This kind of sudden departure from the commitment was expected because it seems that right-wing Malay groups, especially like Gagasan Kuasa 3, were trying to incite racial hatred and bloodshed by invoking memories of the May 13 riots,” he told FMT.
Farouk, who heads vocal Muslim group Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), said right-wing groups were trying to create unrest and commotion “with the hidden agenda of overthrowing the government”.
Former minister Nazri Aziz meanwhile welcomed the decision, and thanked Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“We know Mahathir never pushed for it. We’re happy because there is no need for ICERD.
“To ratify means there is an intention to abolish the special rights of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak. If the government has no intention to abolish these special rights, then there is no need to ratify ICERD.”
One of the treaty’s biggest opponents, PAS Youth chief Muhammad Khalil Abdul Hadi, hailed the decision as a “victory” for Islam, Malays and Bumiputeras.
“PAS was only fulfilling our duty to our religion and nation in fighting against the ratification.
“This should be a warning to Pakatan Harapan that PAS Youth will not be silent when it comes to protecting the interests of Islam, the Malays and Bumiputeras.”
Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan said it was good that the government had realised that ICERD brings no benefit and only creates uneasiness in the country.
He said the government must weigh the pros and cons of its decisions to ensure public order and national security are protected.
“Yes, we will be praised by foreign countries (if Malaysia had ratified ICERD) but since 1969, we haven’t signed the treaty and have not had any problems.”
He said if Malaysia ratified ICERD but didn’t implement it, it risked a boycott by other countries.
Siti Kasim: A shame for Mahathir to do this
Lawyer-activist Siti Kasim, who has openly pledged her support for ICERD and lambasted those who said it would go against the Federal Constitution previously, said it was a shame for Mahathir to do this.
“This is what Tun said internationally, that our country will ratify ICERD.
“It is very disheartening to hear this. I think Tun should actually get advice from others instead of listening to PAS and Umno.
“They (PAS and Umno) are just riding on ICERD for their own agenda. So, I just feel Tun has been ill-advised by whoever it is. It’s an embarrassment for us that Tun, out of the blue, has decided to do this.
“Are we submitting to the Islamists and Ketuanan Melayu? Where is our Malaysia Baru?
“Many have come out to say that ICERD will not take away Malay rights. It was Tun himself who said that we will ratify international rights conventions.
“I think it’s a bit rushed to come out with this statement.
“I think we should meet up with Tun. He needs to listen to both sides, especially the academics and lawyers. It’s a sad day for Malaysia. I’m very disappointed,” she said.
Meanwhile, Jerald Joseph, a commissioner with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), said the country needs true leaders who will stand up “against the tide of the politically-incited fear on ICERD”.
He cited Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P Waytha Moorthy, and de facto religious affairs minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa, as the very few statesmen “who can speak the truth to the powers that be”.
He said it was time Pakatan Harapan leaders woke up and remembered the changes that brought an overhaul of Malaysia.
“PH is a new hope that can take Malaysia to newer heights. Yet, such promises to enhance Malaysia’s standing internationally and take Malaysia out of a racist framework, that was the cornerstone of the old government, have not been kept.
“The integrity of this new government hinges on keeping promises made. It’s time leaders are bold and have courage. This is going to embarrass Malaysia, so early on in its mandate as the new government.
“At the UN General Assembly, Mahathir promised to the world to ratify all remaining rights treaties. We said this in Geneva too,” Jerald said, referring to Malaysia’s Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations. He was part of the Malaysian delegation there.
Human rights lawyer N Surendran said the decision not to ratify ICERD comes in the wake of “politically motivated mischief-making and misconceived arguments by Umno and PAS as well as right-wing groups against ICERD.
“The claim that Article 153 would need to be amended has no basis at all and this has been pointed out repeatedly. Neither does it affect Islam; a large number of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries have ratified the treaty.
“It is appalling that the government has faltered and made such an embarrassing U-turn by going back upon on its own earlier decision to ratify.
“The government and government leaders failed to show moral leadership when it was most needed.
“Some very senior PH leaders publicly ‘abandoned ship’ by calling for the signing to be delayed. This is what led to the eventual capitulation of the government on ICERD.
“That we cannot ratify this key anti-racism treaty puts Malaysia to shame, regionally and internationally. Worse, what does it say about ourselves as a people?”
Human rights group Pusat Komas programme manager Ryan Chua said there have been many myths and misconceptions on the ratification of ICERD and the Pakatan Harapan government had fallen for the strong and loud sentiments made by ICERD dissidents.
“What happened to the consultation with various stakeholders that was promised to be held in the early quarter of 2019?
“Furthermore, Waytha Moorthy had also stated in Parliament that ICERD does not violate Article 153. So, why the drastic decision?
“Once again, we have been let down by the Pakatan Harapan government that has not fulfilled its election promise.”
Earlier today, Putrajaya said it would not ratify ICERD, amid intense opposition from Malay groups and political parties who warned that the global treaty was a threat to Malaysia’s affirmative action policy.