Fear of ‘coup’ led to exit from Rome Statute, says Saifuddin

Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has accused several academics and lawyers of misleading the public over the Rome Statute.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia withdrew from ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) because there was a possibility of the issue being manipulated to the extent that people would go to the streets, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said.

He described the Cabinet’s decision as a “political” move done out of fear of a coup d’etat bid spurred on by powers behind the scenes.

Saifuddin, who is also the Pakatan Harapan’s secretariat chief, said history has shown that a coup d’etat is a common reaction to democratic advancement and the public rising up following an election, and is usually instigated by the “deep state”.

“(There was the) possibility of the issue being manipulated to the extent that people go to the streets, moved by the ‘deep state’ and certain apparatus,” Malay Mail quoted him as saying in an interview with it and other media outlets yesterday.

According to the portal, “deep state” – also known as a “state within a state” – refers to a form of secret government or network that operates independently of a country’s political leadership for its own personal agenda.

Depending on each country, it may include the armed forces, secret police, intelligence agencies or even civil servants, but Saifuddin refused to clarify his definition of the term during the interview, it said.

“I would keep it that way, let the rakyat decide. I use the term apparatus… that are not democratically elected,” it quoted him as saying.

Saifuddin also accused several academics and lawyers, whom he did not name, of using their reputation as legal experts to deliberately mislead the public over the Rome Statute.

He criticised them for their so-called “intellectual dishonesty” after Putrajaya was forced to revert its ratification of the statute on Friday, citing political pressure from opponents who spread unnecessary fear and confusion in public.

“We know that we can have different views. For me, that is common, not everyone has the same view on any given subject,” he was quoted as saying.

“The problem arises when there are some academics or lawyers or those viewed as experts … not that they don’t know what ICC is all about, but they manipulated facts.

“They fabricate what is not there, by inventing ‘what if’ scenarios or they negate what is there, or they overstretch the arguments.”

Saifuddin said the confusion came despite the Cabinet’s repeated thorough explanation on the matter either in Parliament or to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

On Friday, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that Putrajaya was pulling out of the Rome Statute, warning that critics of the treaty had wanted to trigger a row between the country’s monarchy and the government.