Amin Ridzuan Ishak
KUANTAN: The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), currently the subject of heated debate, will be the last human rights convention ratified by the government.
Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said the government wants to instead focus on two simpler conventions, namely the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) and United Nations Convention against Torture.
He said ICERD will became the last convention ratified by the government as it involves a law that has to be scrutinised as well as to seek views from various parties through negotiations to eliminate any concerns.
“Actually, not many laws are needed in order to coordinate with ICERD but we want to scrutinise the matter step by step. A technical committee led by the National Unity and Integration Department (JPNIN) under the Prime Minister’s Department has been already set up some time ago.
“We also want to get in touch with all those who want to voice their opinion on ICERD. I noticed that many do not read the constitution (of Malaysia) resulting in misunderstanding on some fundamental matters when raising their points (in supporting and opposing the move),” he told reporters after handing Intraocular lenses to the underprivileged from the Indera Mahkota parliamentary constituency at Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital (HTAA) here on Thursday.
Citing an example, Saifuddin said Article 153 of the Constitution contains four items, namely the special position of the Malays, the natives of Sabah and Sarawak, the rights of those other than Malays or the people of Sabah and Sarawak, and the rights of the Orang Asli.
“In my opinion, the word hak (rights) does not exist. So when we focus on “ketuanan Melayu” (Malay supremacy), it is wrong as Article 153 is not about Malay supremacy, not about Bumiputera...the word Bumiputera is not in the Constitution, so if one continues to use the term then the person does not understand the Constitution
“Secondly, related to the special privileges of the people from Sabah and Sarawak. If we ask whether they think that they are first or second-class citizens.. ask them properly. They would say that between me and Peninsular Malaysia, they lose... that is among the discriminations. That is what we want to enforce in ICERD so there will be no discrimination.
“Thirdly, blaming each other. The Malays claim it is difficult to work in firms owned by the Chinese while the Chinese claim it is tough to enter government offices. So ICERD is meant to avoid discrimination especially when there is a fourth aspect involving the Orang Asli as when we ask them, many would say they are exposed to discrimination,” he said.
Saifuddin said a discussion concerning all the related parties should be done. The government, he said, also respects the ICERD’s protest in front of the Parliament building on Wednesday as being part of the democratic process.
“Basically we have six (international conventions on human rights) but ICERD is not given priority, we want to give priority to those that the people understand and can be implemented.
“The Pakatan Harapan government has no plans to speak on Article 3 (The position of Islam), Article 152 (Bahasa Melayu as national language), Article 153 and the position of the Malay Rulers. The fact that we are a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, we will uphold it, “he said.