The main contention by Umno-PAS in relation to the ICERD can be categorised into three areas:
- Fear of loss of sovereignty;
- Fear of contradicting the Federal Constitution; and
- Compliance process with ICERD.
Malaysia adopted the United Nations Charter in 1957. The adoption of the charter signalled the commitment of states to United Nations principles. The United Nations promotes human rights based on the 1946 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Malaysia, through the 1993 Vienna Declaration, reaffirmed its commitment to international principles and treaties.
In addition, the government along with another 170 countries, also endorsed human rights at the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa in 2001.
In 2012, the previous government signed and endorsed the Asean Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) with a pledge and commitment to the UDHR, the United Nations Charter, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and other international human rights instruments.
The Malaysian government has signed three international treaties, namely the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, all with “reservations” primarily on discriminative practices. Where was the fear mongering by Umno and PAS in relation to loss of sovereignty, contradiction with the Federal Constitution and the compliance process?
All of the above was done without much fuss. But when the present government attempts to enhance the country’s human rights standing by endorsing ICERD with reservations, those fears that appeared obsolete now seem to resurface for obvious reasons that feed the Umno-PAS regime.
Yes, I forgot about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People of which Malaysia is also a signatory. Although it was signed in 2007, little was done for them during the previous government’s administration. So Umno-PAS, please spare the indigenous groups from your obsolete arguments.
The arguments put forward by Umno-PAS to protect race and religion are futile and are only to protect their own self-interest and importance.
My advice to the government? Just get on with it and sign the ICERD for a start with the necessary reservations.
Azlina Harun is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.