Malaysiakini Letter

Putrajaya keeping Icerd on ice is a letdown

Ramon Navaratnam  |  Published:

LETTER | Like many other Malaysians, I am deeply disappointed that Malaysia has chosen to keep the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) on ice.

I believe that most informed Malaysians would support the ratification of Icerd, as postulated by the G25 and many public intellectuals and thought leaders.

As pointed out by many, there is no conflict between the ratification of the Icerd and the Federal Constitution. 

Affirmative action policies can still carry on, if and when we ratify Icerd, hopefully sooner rather than later. 

After all, there are provisions for reservations in Icerd to protect our constitutional principles, govern our official religion Islam, while preserving the position of all other religions, ensure the special rights of bumiputera as well as that of the esteemed Malay rulers.

Problems of non-ratification

The problems of ratification, stem from misunderstanding, misinformation and miscommunication.

Misunderstanding comes from the failure to appreciate that the affirmative action policies can continue.

Hopefully, however, the affirmative action policies to help the underprivileged and deprived poverty-stricken groups in our society will not be based on race but on basic needs and low incomes. 

That is where we have had to sadly bear the criticism of unfairness and racial discrimination in our country, which no one really wants. No religion or culture tolerates discrimination against the poor based on race, as we all wish to promote equality for all God`s children.

Misinformation arises from distortion of the truth about Icerd. Icerd is not against our constitution. 

However, some politicians for their own desperate survival have wrongly discredited the treaty, which most nations, including most Muslim-majority countries, have ratified. 

So why indulge in the false purveyance of distorted information, as this is forbidden by all religions and universal ethics? Is it for narrow political ends?

Miscommunication has unfortunately spread maliciously through social media and even public speeches, fora and conferences.

Here, I wish that the police would take stronger action under the law to contain any false and vicious communications, whether verbal or in written form. 

Some quarters have maligned the Icerd, as if its a threat to our constitution and future, when it is for our own good.

Disadvantages of non-ratification

The critics of the Icerd should also ponder over the disadvantages of non-ratification. 

Malaysia will be isolated at the United Nations, given that we are one of the very few countries that have not ratified the treaty. 

We will be lumped together with North Korea and other dubious countries. Surely we should be in the company of better countries. 

Malaysians will be regarded as discriminatory, and we will be tainted by a broad brush which will not be fair to the country and its people.

The continued rejection of Icerd could entrench the whole concept of protection, discrimination and non-competition, and make it a permanent feature of our national policies. 

This will debilitate us in the longer term, unless we change from this course in a more timely manner. We don't want to be a sluggish manja-manja society, do we?

Considering the present circumstances, it may be right and proper at this time to defer ratification of the Icerd.

This is only because of the unexpected and unjustified huge emotional wave against the ratification at this time.

Nevertheless, it is regrettable that we seem to be more regressive than progressive and have succumbed to vociferous protests even if it is minority voices.

I hope that more public debate and discussion will persuade our people that the whole world can`t be wrong, and that we among the minority of countries will soon overcome our misunderstandings, misinformation and miscommunications.

I hope we will all see the bigger, broader world picture that struggles against rather than promotes negative discrimination, which is intrinsically self-destructive. 

Lets all together continue our struggle against negative discrimination and treat all Malaysians as equals.

So let's take Icerd off the ice. Let's focus on helping the poor regardless of race and religion, in the interests of building greater national unity and a better Malaysia for all its citizens.

This is the challenge for the Harapan government and we hope to support them to achieve ratification, as many believe that it is good for our country and its brighter future.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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