Rights group slams PH over fear of public opinion in UN treaties

Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu (left) and Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson after a joint press conference today.

PETALING JAYA: A global human rights group today raised concerns over Putrajaya’s fear of public opinion in failing to ratify several key United Nations (UN) conventions.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said such a fear was disconcerting and entirely out of proportion.

“They need to understand that they are elected and have made commitments, and follow through on them. Things will be all right,” he said in a press conference on Pakatan Harapan’s reform agenda a year after coming to power.

He had been asked why the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government might have rolled back on its reform progress, aside from issues of race and religion.

He also noted what he said was a willingness in Putrajaya to “wait another day which may not come, when everything is wonderful and we can pass the treaties with no problems at all”.

“That is not going to happen,” he added. “Not with an opposition playing disruptive politics.

“The reality is that, no matter what the government says, it will face opposition from Umno and PAS.

“The question is whether it can find the stomach to push them through or not.”

PH, which marks its first year in power tomorrow, back-pedalled on signing the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) after a storm of protest from Malay and right-wing groups. It also withdrew from the Rome Statute, which forms the basis of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Robertson urged Putrajaya to reconsider its withdrawal from the Rome Statute, saying the ICC is an important part of the infrastructure of the international human rights system.

“At a time when the Philippines has withdrawn from the ICC, it is important to have Malaysia as a leader on human rights in the region.

“There are parts of the government that want to be seen as a leader on human rights in the region, and they should be,” he said.

Robertson added that Malaysia’s position as a multiracial and multi-religious country is not unique.

“There are a lot of complicated countries in the world. There are many different countries where there are different races and religions living side by side, and they are able to ratify UN conventions. They are able to implement human rights laws, able to find the modus operandi to ensure that peace and tranquility is maintained,” he said.

He said the government is responsible for protecting human rights.

“So when we don’t see that happening, when we see the step back from these pledges, it raises real concerns on their political commitment.”