‘Advice given by 4 academicians to Rulers on Rome Statute unjustified’

Former foreign minister Rais Yatim.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former foreign minister Rais Yatim said the advice given to the Malay Rulers by four academicians is untenable.

The advice is said to have derailed the government’s ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

“Their motive can be questioned. Which part of the statute affects the Rulers’ sovereignty?”

Rais, who spoke in his capacity as founder and chairman of Yayasan Budi, said this at a public forum on The Rome Statute Pull-Out: Controversies and the Implications —Where Do We Go From Here?

The event, held at the Kuala Lumpur- Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, was organised by the Human Rights Committee of the Malaysian Bar.

Describing the academicians as the “four musketeers”, Rais said they must have something extra to talk to the Rulers about.

“But why did they not come for the talk here today or at the session held at Universiti Malaya last week?”

He said they must be held responsible and accountable for the advice they gave the Rulers.

Rais, who is also a lawyer, said those supportive of the statute must also counter the arguments by the four.

“Their advice is defective and they played a political game. We have to suffer for that.”

Someone from the floor then shouted that the four were traitors but Rais responded “we should not raise the temperature”.

Rais, who is also a PPBM Supreme Council member, said the Malay monarchs no longer enjoyed immunity and they are open to criminal prosecution and civil suits following an amendment to the Federal Constitution in 1994.

He said the rule of law must prevail and the Rulers must understand the world has changed.

“A value system must be imbued for their safety and the future of Malaysia,” he said, adding that the Bar, with 19,000 members, must go to the ground to explain the issue

Last month, a group of student activists leaked images of a 10-page memorandum prepared by the four academicians that outline the roles and functions of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and his liability under the Rome Statute.

The four authors claimed that accession to the Rome Statute would make the Yang di-Pertuan Agong liable for prosecution at the International Criminal Court in his role as supreme commander of the armed forces.

They contend that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong holds operational responsibilities as supreme commander, beyond that of a figurehead or ceremonial role.

The memorandum was prepared by Prof Rahmat Mohamad, Associate Professor Shamrahayu Ab Aziz, Fareed Mohd Hassan and Hisham Hanapi. It was submitted to the Conference of Rulers on April 2.

On April 5, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that the government was withdrawing its ratification of the Rome Statute. Among those who had protested against the statute was Tunku Mahkota of Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim.

Ratification would entail making changes to Malaysian law to conform with the requirements of the Rome Statute, which allows prosecution of those who commit international crimes such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, such as enforced disappearance of individuals by a state or agents of the state.

Speaking to reporters later, Rais said a proper and clear explanation must be given to the public for them to make a judgment

“Although in the social media, there is some clarification on the treaty, we call on the academicians to appear to give their arguments as to why they are against the statute.”

He said the government is not against the treaty but buckled due to pressure on political grounds.

Rais said he hoped to meet the four as he has some contact in his capacity as former president of the International Islamic University.

“I hope to meet them in a friendly and conducive environment,” Rais said, adding he will then inform the Bar president and Attorney-General Tommy Thomas on the outcome.

Asked whether the government will proceed the ratify the treaty, Rais said it all depended on the prime minister’s preparedness to give space to other possibilities in the future.

Rais said his personal feeling is that the statute is good for the nation and the people should support it.

“Even if we cannot incorporate the treaty in full, we can pick some of the offences and then either amend or introduce new legislation,” he added.