KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said the government had no choice but to withdraw from the Rome Statute, adding that opponents of the treaty were trying to pit the Malay rulers against the government.
The prime minister said the withdrawal was due to the confusion of “one particular person who wants to be free to beat up people”.
“If he does that, I will send the police after him. I do not care who he is. It is an attempt to blacken the good name of the government,” he told reporters after announcing that Malaysia was withdrawing from the Rome Statute, which serves to complement existing laws in member-states to prosecute individuals who commit international crimes.
Mahathir said the decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute was not due to fears of government leaders being prosecuted.
“We are withdrawing not because it is harmful to us, but because of the political confusion that has arisen.
“Therefore, the Cabinet this morning decided to withdraw from the Rome Statute,” he said.
He said the opposition to Malaysia joining the treaty was political, and a move to get the rulers to back them.
“The whole idea is to get the royalty in Malaysia to go against the government. That is the motive.
“Because of that confusion, we have made a decision not to recognise the statute. We have ratified, but we still have time to withdraw,” he said.
Malaysia’s ratification of the Rome Statute has come under attack from the Johor palace, with crown prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim saying Malay rulers could fall victim to “orchestrated war crimes” by those wanting to see the fall of the country’s royal institution.
“What if there are orchestrated war crimes and such?” he asked on Twitter recently.
“Key word ‘orchestrated’, and those wanting to menjatuhkan Msia’s sistem Diraja [bring down Malaysia’s monarchy] can do that, and the King takes the hit. Or is someone trying to be the commander in chief?”
The Rome Statute is an international agreement that created the International Criminal Court.
It complements existing laws in a state to prosecute individuals who commit international crimes, as contained in Article 5 of the statute, such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.
Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said the Cabinet had signed the treaty after being satisfied that the King, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces, would not be affected.
Mahathir today said some people were easily misled by certain quarters, adding that there was a lack of understanding by the public on the issue.
“I am very surprised at some people who try to make use of the signing of this statute as evidence that the government has surrendered everything.
“I know there is an attempt to undermine this government by saying we have surrendered all power to foreigners. We have not. There is no way for them to take action against us,” he said.
Mahathir said he had been strict in applying the rule of law, such as taking action on money laundering.
He reiterated that whoever breaches the law will be punished, regardless of whether they are “prince or paupers”.
He also rubbished the suggestion that the Rome Statute would undermine the Malay rulers.
“This is absolute nonsense. They cannot possibly depose our king because some soldier shot somebody.
“The king is not some executive or monarch, but acts on the advice of the prime minister. Of course, they can take action against me, but for what? Am I going to kill people?” he asked.
Giving an example, Mahathir said the statute could be applicable if the Malaysian government engages in the genocide of non-Malays and confiscates their properties.
“But what we are doing now is not excessive. We ensure equal distribution of wealth. Everyone will benefit,” he said, referring to pro-Bumiputera policies.
On why the issue was not tabled in Parliament for approval, Mahathir said there was no need to debate everything in public, and that the government has the authority to approve and sign treaties.
“I don’t think we have to debate everything in public. If we do that, there will be differences in opinion and we cannot make a decision,” he added.