A commentary by Zaidi Azmi
November 1, 2018.
IT is ironic but the person tasked by the Pakatan Harapan government to foster national harmony and unity ended up upsetting Malaysia’s ethnic majority but what National Unity and Social Well-being Minister P. Waytha Moorthy had done to enrage some of the more conservative Malays was not entirely surprising.
Here’s some background.
Moorthy got cornered after saying that the government will early next year ratify a contentious anti-racial discrimination convention of the United Nations — the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) — which critics argue threatens Malaysia’s constitution and social contract.
The blowback over the ratification of the ICERD stems from the suspicion that the convention will eventually negate Article 153 of the federal Constitution which enshrines the special rights of the Malays and Bumiputera.
Article 153 is the basis of the Malay- and Bumi-centric policies aimed at improving their economic positions because despite being the majority, they comprise the bulk of Malaysia’s lower income segment.
Moorthy had three days ago reassured the Malays that the convention will not affect Article 153 but this was a sales pitch that the Malays at a rally held outside Parliament yesterday were not buying.
“Do not lie to us! Did you guys ever think of asking us Malays first? Touch Article 153 and there will be harsh repercussions!” warned Mohd. Fauzi Shaffie.
And who can blame the protesters for getting all riled up because Moorthy, who co-founded the Hindu rights group Hindraf, had previously made some inflammatory remarks against the Malays.
In 2007, he tried to sue the British government for a whopping £4 trillion pound for its supposed role in the alleged violation of Indian rights by a Malay-Muslim government.
”After a century of slaving for the British, the colonial government withdrew after granting independence and they left us unprotected and at the mercy of a majority Malay-Muslim government (Malaysia) that has violated our rights as minority Indians,” said Moorthy in 2007.
And he reportedly in the same year sought to strike out Article 153 in a bid to get a Malaysian court to declare Malaysia as a secular state and not an Islamic one.
Besides going against the Constitution, a lawyer who is also fierce critic of ICERD, Lukman Sheriff, said Malaysia risks losing its sovereignty should it ratify the convention.
“Once ratified, Malaysia needs to report its compliance to an international committee as per Article 9 of ICERD while Article 11 allows other countries to report any non-compliance.
“And Article 22 permits disputing countries to take their cases to the International Court of Justice. Also, Article 14 allows individuals in certain cases to file a racial discrimination report to the international committee,” Lukman explained.
Maybe in an attempt to diffuse the tension, Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad yesterday said that Malaysia will only sign ICERD after thorough negotiations with all races.
“It is not an easy matter for Malaysia because we have various races which are sensitive to certain matters,” commented Mahathir at a press conference.
If this is the situation, why did Moorthy say ICERD will be ratified in the first quarter of 2019?