COMMENT | G25 expresses its disappointment that the government has yielded to pressure from dissenting groups and decided to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), soon after it had acceded to it.
This is the second time that the government has done a U-turn, the first being the withdrawal from its decision to accede to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd).
This is troubling because it creates the impression that Malaysia is ruled by racial and religious sentiments, not by universal standards of justice. It also brings into question the new government’s commitment to reforms.
It is understandable for the prime minister to be upset at those responsible for spreading confusion over this international convention and misleading the public, especially the Malays, that the Rome Statute will undermine the sovereignty of the country and the dignity of the Malay Rulers and Islam.
Under the statute, the ICC is empowered to institute proceedings against individuals for the international crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression when a country is unable or unwilling to charge its nationals for the commission of any of the above-mentioned crimes. In other words, the ICC is a court of last resort.
We in G25 cannot understand why there are concerns that the Rome Statute will place our sultans and the Yang di-Pertuan Agung and Islam at risk of being subjected to international law as they are constitutional monarchs who rule on the advice of the government.
On the other hand, if any sultan is responsible for a serious crime, he will be brought to justice under our national law. There is no need to refer the matter to the ICC, as our royal families have no immunity from criminal charges, unlike some countries which exempt their royalty from criminal punishments.
However, if our political leaders or royals commit crimes against humanity on a barbaric scale, and no action is taken to make them accountable, then it is right and proper that the international community intervene to bring them to justice at the ICC so that the people will be spared from future acts of terror.
For example, the countries which make up the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda are more civilised countries today after the genocides carried out by their previous rulers were exposed to the world at the trials conducted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha. These trials were initiated by international resolutions at the United Nations.
G25 calls upon the government to encourage the Rome Statute to be discussed and debated at all levels of society – in the open media, in university campuses and in civil society forums, in the kampungs and cities – so that when the time is right, and after the country has a much better understanding of the treaty, the matter can be brought up to Parliament for a final decision, based on the will of the people, as reflected by their elected representatives, on whether to accede to, or reject the treaty, and to abide by that decision.
That is how a parliamentary democracy works. In fact, the democratic process is never an easy one. It is a dynamic or vibrant process and full of challenges; as in any major new policy initiative, there will always be divided opinions.
The experience in other countries shows that however contentious the issue, the public will come to accept the final decision when the people are satisfied that all layers of opinions have been consulted through open dialogues and debates.
It is true that some policy changes may be tough for some groups to accept, but when the majority have spoken through a proper parliamentary process, they must accept that decision.
G25 is an organisation of retired top Malay civil servants.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.