It’s all about face, analysts say on anti-ICERD rally

The rally against the ICERD will proceed tomorrow despite the government’s decision not to ratify the UN treaty.

PETALING JAYA: Political analysts have dismissed the rally against a UN treaty tomorrow as merely a way for PAS and Umno to “save face” and prove its relevance in championing the rights of the Malays and Islam.

Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the continuous harping on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which Putrajaya has decided not to ratify, would rally the support of conservative Muslims for the two parties.

“Umno and PAS also want to be seen as an opposition that will voice out on any issue. Otherwise, they will no longer be relevant on the national scale in terms of politics,” he told FMT.

He added that the rally was also a way for them to put on a show of political strength and prove that they still had followers after their defeat in the May 9 polls.

The anti-ICERD gathering is slated for tomorrow, from 2pm to 6pm. The Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has given the green light for the rally, although the DBKL headquarters in Jalan Raja Laut will be closed during this time.

On Wednesday, veteran newsman A Kadir Jasin who is special adviser to the prime minister on media and communications, said in a blog post that PAS and Umno were using the rally as a “benchmark” to see who wields more influence.

Like Awang Azman, Kadir said both PAS and Umno had no choice but to use any opportunity available to seek political dividends following their dismal loss in the general election.

He also said the rally would bring PAS and Umno together despite views that it is a manifestation of the competition between the two pro-Islam parties.

Political geostrategist Azmi Hassan from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Perdana School said an earlier rally on the matter already showed that Umno and PAS had the necessary support to slam Putrajaya.

“I concur with Kadir that the rally is a show of strength, not between PAS and Umno, but on how these parties can command loyalty not only from their supporters, but also Muslims in general.”

Azmi said while it was now the norm for PAS and Umno to cooperate, they needed a common cause to bind them together.

“In this case, the ICERD (worked to that effect),” he added.

He opined that the rally should proceed as both parties had invested a lot of time and money in it.

Oh Ei Sun from the Pacific Research Centre also agreed that proceeding with the anti-ICERD rally despite the irrelevance of its original aim was a show of power.

“The nature of Malaysian politics is such that in addition to money, which is attractive to a large number of voters, there must be a show of strength to persuade them that the wind is blowing in a particular direction, and that they’d better catch the wind tail.”

Analyst James Chin from the University of Tasmania meanwhile warned that if PAS and Umno were able to rally 100,000 people – 400,000 less than their stated goal – Putrajaya must be “ready for a big political fight”.

“The big fear is that some elements will use it to start a riot,” he said, adding that the pro-human rights celebration to be attended by government officials on the same day must attract similar numbers.

Umno, PAS and pro-Malay rights group Perkasa have all given their support for the anti-ICERD rally. The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia is holding a pro-human rights celebration in Petaling Jaya on the same day. The event is expected to be launched by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.