Failure to ratify ICERD because Saifuddin ‘not humble enough’, says KJ

Umno’s Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin says ICERD was not problematic in principle as there were conditions that prospective member states could include.

SUBANG JAYA: Umno’s Khairy Jamaluddin today said the government lost its chance to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) because of Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah’s “lack of humility”.

The Rembau MP, who was among the first to raise questions last October on the implications of Malaysia ratifying all core United Nations treaties related to human rights such as ICERD, said there was a reason why Wisma Putra previously did not accede to these treaties when he was in government.

“It’s not something that the ministry of foreign affairs has never thought about. Obviously, as a member of the international community, we think about these things all the time,” the former youth and sports minister told a forum on “Beyond 2020: Fresh Views, New Visions” at Sunway University here.

“But I said (to Saifuddin at the Dewan Rakyat at the time) that there are certain implications which you need to be aware of, one of which is trying to reconcile certain constitutional provisions that we have with the international treaty itself.

“I said, ‘Look, you better go and talk to all the stakeholders before you go ahead and sign and ratify this thing’.

“To which, the response was, I thought, typical of the Pakatan (Harapan) government then (that they feel they) can walk on water, you know, ‘we can do anything’.”

He said Saifuddin merely dismissed his concerns and said, “We’re going to get this done. You couldn’t do it, we’ll be able to do it.”

“And I just said, ‘Please just watch out because you will probably end up having the same problems we did when we thought about ratifying some of these instruments’.

“And, sure enough, fast forward two months, he backed down from it (ratifying ICERD) simply because I thought there was superciliousness or an arrogance that they (PH) thought they were invincible.

“And that was it.”

Khairy said ICERD in itself was not problematic in principle, adding that there were conditions that prospective member states can include when opting to sign or ratify the convention.

“But, obviously, because there was no humility in wanting to sell that policy, that’s when he (Saifuddin) lost ground. And when you lose ground it’s awful. Things become simplified … (the perception on the ground was that) ICERD is against the Malays and Islam.

“You cannot recover from that because you didn’t have the humility in the first place to say, ‘Can we talk about this? This is an instrument that many people have signed. Can we think about signing this? It doesn’t necessarily have to abrogate (Article) 153 in the Constitution’.”

ICERD obliges parties to eliminate racial discrimination in all forms, including in public institutions as well as in government policies.

The forum was hosted by the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia and think tank The Centre, which Khairy co-founded.

Also present were Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong and PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar.