After Rome Statute reversal, minister says on mission to counter misinformation from Putrajaya’s critics including ‘profesor kangkung’.
Wisma Putra will take a more proactive role in explaining the government’s international policies after Putrajaya was forced to abandon ratifying the Rome Statute, said Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.
In a joint press interview yesterday ahead of Pakatan Harapan’s first anniversary in power, he said he learned lessons from the debacle over the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and said efforts to mislead Malaysians must be exposed.
“We must be more careful with our communications. We must also call their bluff, as we are doing now with the ICC issue.
“I am going on TV and exposing the lies — there are lies. We will expose them all, including the profesor kangkung (sham professors),” he said.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced earlier this month that Malaysia was reversing its previously stated intention to ratify the Rome Statute due to political deception that confused the public.
Saifuddin noted that the decision also came in the wake of another reversal on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
However, he said the situation was different with the Rome Statute as the government could in the future introduce its benefits to Malaysia independently of the global treaty.
“We learned from the ICERD and ICC experiences, in that we must coordinate these issues better in the future.
“We are dealing with people who twist facts. They did not tell the real story behind ICERD and ICC. The manipulation of facts caused confusion and it was also meant to scare the public.
“You’ve noticed, I’ve gone on two TV stations to call the bluff (on false claims), including by ‘kangkung professors’,” Saifuddin said
‘Kangkung professors’ is a term used to describe academics of a low standard.
Kangkung or water spinach is a vegetable that is sometimes maligned as a green that grows in drains.
Four academics have been partly blamed for allegedly misleading the Conference of Rulers on the Rome Statute with a biased paper on the treaty.
This allegedly fanned concerns voiced by critics of the Rome Statute, including Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, who claimed that the treaty undermined Malaysia’s sovereignty and the royal institution.
This is despite Saifuddin’s ministry stressing that the position of monarchs would not be undermined by the statute.
However, Saifuddin acknowledged that it was “the end of the road” for efforts to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
In November, Putrajaya said it would not ratify ICERD amid opposition from Malay groups and political parties who warned that it was a threat to Malaysia’s affirmative action policy.
Earlier this month, the government announced its withdrawal from ratifying the Rome Statute which sets up the International Criminal Court (ICC), after heavy criticism from the Johor palace, among others, and a petition to the Malay rulers.
The Rome Statute outlaws four international crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes of aggression, and crimes against humanity, among which are slavery, enforced disappearances, torture, apartheid, and other offences.
Saifuddin also voiced exasperation with those who demanded that treaties be submitted to Parliament.
He said more than 100 treaties had been signed and ratified without being brought to Parliament, except for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement for which legislative approval was required.
Acknowledging that Pakatan Harapan had pledged to be more consultative, he said he had called for a parliamentary select committee to be set up on foreign policy.
However, he said there were those who were confused about the separation of power in administrative decision-making, adding that bringing the treaties to Parliament would create a new precedent.
“We can’t have a situation where every time the Cabinet needs to make a decision, we need to bring it to Parliament.
“That is why when people ask me about referring the ICC to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Malay rulers, I keep saying that according to the constitution, there are times and issues where we must not only refer and get the consent of the rulers – but the ICC is not one of those issues.”
Moving forward, Saifuddin said Putrajaya is studying the United Nations Convention against Torture (Uncat).
He said this treaty was less sensitive and controversial than Icerd and the Rome Statute, but Putrajaya will discuss the matter thoroughly before ratifying it.