The decision by the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to give in to the falsely framed arguments and fascist threats of a ‘May 13’ repeat if ICERD was to be ratified is a clear message that the PH government a) lacks the political will to eradicate racism and racial discrimination and b) supports the blatant selective efficiency of the police in keeping law and order.
In my book, ‘”May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969″, I point out that the “May 13 Incident” was not a spontaneous post-election riot between “Malays” and “Chinese” but that it had been orchestrated by “hidden hands” in the coup d’etat against the Tunku.
Today, the opponents of ICERD are so emboldened that they can openly declare that they will unleash “May 13” if the government goes ahead with the ratification of ICERD.
It reminds us of the prelude to Operation Lalang in 1987 when Umno Youth threatened to hold a 500,000 rally in Kuala Lumpur against the Chinese educationists who were protesting against unqualified administrators being sent to Chinese schools.
Instead of acting against the organisers of this threat, we, the civil society members, were arrested and detained under the ISA.
And if these fascists did resort to violence, will the police and the security forces be ineffectual against them?
This is a serious admission of failure or double standards by the police and our security forces who claimed victory over armed insurgents during the Emergency; who today face international terrorists and who a few years ago, were ruthless against thousands of Reformasi demonstrators during the Kesas Highway demonstration.
Is Malaysia doomed to never-ending racial discrimination?
Since there is no political will expressed by the new government to ratify ICERD, it looks like we are stuck with the never-ending racially defined economic, social and cultural policies for some time yet.
For a start, how could there be any political will when the Prime Minister himself is the leader of a racially-based party meant exclusively for “Pribumis”?
Aside from the PM’s race-based party, the other supposedly “democratic” and “multi-ethnic” component parties of the PH coalition have failed the Malaysian people in the same way that MCA and MIC failed them, by condoning the racial discrimination of the previous BN administration.
By not ratifying the ICERD, the new PH government can carry on with all the racially discriminatory policies and measures that we have seen especially since 1971, notably the APs scandal and the crony capitalism all these years, the abuse of the Quota System especially the apartheid “Bumis Only” policy at UiTM.
The world community outlaws racism and racial discrimination
The world community reaffirmed at the World Conference against Racism and Racial Discrimination at Durban in 2001 that “nationality” is a legal relationship denoting membership of a nation or sovereign state.
It implies duties of allegiance on the part of the individual as well as of protection on the part of the state. Nationality is regarded as an inalienable right of every person in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
The status of nationality and citizenship has the crucial implication that every citizen is equal in the eyes of the law.
It does not matter in the least whether citizens have been recently naturalised, or that their forefathers came here centuries ago. This is provided for in our Federal Constitution (our “social contract”?) when we became independent in 1957.
As long as our country refuses to join the vast majority of nations in the world community by ratifying the ICERD, we will stand with the small number of pariah nations of this world such as Myanmar and North Korea.
What is there to be proud of in that? Is this what the people voted for in the recent May 9 general elections? More of the same racism and racial discrimination we have witnessed especially since 1971?
The struggle for greater democracy
The road toward uniting the Malaysian people is through principled adherence to a concerted effort for greater democracy not only in the political realm but also in economic, educational, social and cultural policies.
The basis of unity rests fundamentally on the recognition of the equality of all nationalities for national oppression is ultimately, an instrument of class oppression. That is why it is important for our country to ratify ICERD.
At the same time, the basis for unity among the masses is also to embody a commitment to democracy and policies that will improve the living standards of the workers and farmers and at the same time unite them.
These components involve the lifting of restrictions on legitimate political organisation and activity, as well as the encouragement of social and political institutions that ensure genuine popular control.
The task for all Malaysians is thus, to build a solidarity movement for democracy, fully cognizant of the need for improving the livelihood of the masses and building a society that is progressive, inclusive and truly equal.
To quote a Russian philosopher: “Whoever does not recognise and champion the equality of nations and languages and does not fight against all national oppression or inequality… is not even a democrat!”
Kua Kia Soong is the adviser to Suaram.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.