Redemption for Malaysia

PAS has just completed its muktamar or annual general meeting in Kuala Terengganu. At the meeting, members highlighted the caning of two Malay women for “trying to have sex” as a success story but said nothing about the systematic murder of thousands of Rohingya, who are Muslims, in Myanmar.

Here we have an Islamist party that wants to save the ummah, yet considers sex between two consenting adults far more important than genocide.

I hope Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is attending the United Nations general assembly, will announce to the world that Malaysia does not tolerate genocide. Those of us who follow the news about the murder of Rohingya by the Myanmar military must stand in solidarity with the Rohingya and say that any crime against humanity will be punished.

Aung San Su Kyi has betrayed the trust that many placed in her. For four long years, I served as chair of Asean Parliamentarians on Myanmar, and we campaigned relentlessly for her release and the restoration of democracy in Myanmar. What we got from her in return was genocide.

Now it is imperative that Malaysia takes this case of genocide to the International Court of Justice. I have contacted a brilliant international lawyer, who is also a Queen’s Counsel in London, who has agreed to accept the case free of charge if Malaysia decides to initiate proceedings against Myanmar. We have done gallantly for Gaza and Bosnia Herzegovina. We must do the same for Myanmar. I hope the foreign ministry will read this post and consider my proposal seriously.

Of course, it would strengthen our credibility if we also ratified the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951. One hundred and forty five countries have ratified the convention, so why not Malaysia? We will cause no problems ratifying the convention as the UN has a proven and fair system to allocate intakes to countries that are required to accommodate refugees.

In the face of Donald Trump’s madness, Malaysia must provide global leadership in the fight for justice. We must stand up for stateless people like the Rohingya and other refugees. Pakatan Harapan talked enough when it was the opposition. Now that it is the government, it must act with courage.

Our new Malaysia is not just about changing the government or about the much-touted institutional reforms. We need to go deeper and search ourselves: let us be a country of conscience. Conscience will drive us forward with policies and laws that care for the helpless and the poor.

Only a society with conscience can stem the powerful tide of greed. For many years we succeeded in branding ourselves as “religious” and “Islamic”, but without conscience we lost the plot. We became a world-famous kleptocracy.

Let the Rohingya genocide – the deportation of a million women and children – stir our conscience and drive us to take the lead in bringing Myanmar to the International Court of Justice.

This would be the best antidote for any temptation to return to our shameful past.

Zaid Ibrahim is a former law minister.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.