Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has taken the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration to task over its decision to not ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), despite pledging to do so initially.
LFL executive director Latheefa Koya and the organisation’s adviser N Surendran slammed the reversal, labelling it as an embarrassment and a betrayal.
“Very disappointed. Not surprised by the objections raised by Umno or PAS, but shocking and betrayed by the objections raised by some PH MPs themselves who took the side of Umno and PAS MPs.
“The government has access to all the media, to set things right and explain. Instead, they backed off too soon,” Latheefa told the Malay Mail.
She also scoffed at a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), which said that the government would continue to defend the Federal Constitution which contains the “social contract” agreed upon by the representatives of all races when the foundation for Malaysia’s formation was laid.
“It’s not relevant to the ratification. It’s a false argument raised by Umno-PAS,” Latheefa added.
Surendran meanwhile, said that the shocking U-turn on ICERD comes in the wake of weeks of prolonged “politically motivated mischief-making and misconceived arguments by Umno-PAS”, as well as right-wing groups.
“The claims that Article 153 would need to be amended has no basis at all and this has been pointed out repeatedly. Neither does it affect Islam; a large number of Organisation of Islamic countries have ratified it too,” he told the Malay Mail.
Article 153 addresses the special quota for Malays and natives in Sabah and Sarawak.
“It is appalling that the government has faltered and made such an embarrassing U-turn by going back on their own earlier decision to ratify. The government and government leaders failed to show moral leadership when it was most needed,” Surendran added.
Echoing Latheefa, Surendran lamented that several “very senior” leaders of PH had also “publicly abandoned ship” by calling for the signing to be delayed, adding that this was what led to the government’s latest decision on the United Nations (UN) treaty.
“That we cannot ratify this key anti-racism treaty puts Malaysia to shame, regionally and internationally. Worse, what does it say about ourselves as a people?” the former Padang Serai MP asked.
Earlier, amid mass protests across the country, the Prime Minister’s Office announced today that the government will not ratify ICERD.
Out of 197 countries, 179 countries have ratified, acceded or succeeded and agreed to be bound by the ICERD.
Malaysia is one of 14 countries in the world that has not signed or ratified the ICERD, including Brunei, Myanmar and North Korea.
Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi threatened at a protest attended by thousands of people in Perak that Malay-Muslims would “run amok” if the government ratified ICERD.
He also said Umno and PAS would hold a demonstration on December 8 in Kuala Lumpur to protest against ratifying the international treaty.
ICERD has sparked fears among Malays who are concerned that its ratification would eventually result in the removal of Bumiputera and Malay special rights, as underlined in the Federal Constitution.
On Nov 15, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P Waythamoorthy had assured the Dewan Rakyat that Article 153 of the Federal Constitution will not be repealed even if the government signs ICERD.
Article 153 refers to the special position of Islam as the religion of the federation, the institution of the Malay rulers and bumiputera privileges.
The ICERD issue has sparked protests from Umno and PAS, whose top leaders were planning to hold a joint rally on Dec 8 to protest plans in ratifying the international convention. It was reported that some 700,000 Umno and PAS members were expected to turn up at the rally. – Malay Mail