It was not a ‘thanksgiving’ anti-ICERD rally after all

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Malaysia is one of only a handful of major countries (in red) that have neither signed nor ratified the ICERD - Graphic: Wikipedia

The politicians leading the rally yesterday seem to have found a potent formula to save themselves, writes JD Lovrenciear

What was promoted as a ‘thanksgiving’ rally to show support to the current government’s decision to shelve the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination appears to have achieved other objectives.

The crowd of tens of thousands sea of Malay Muslims, some attired in white, others in black, focused their attention on Pas and Umno bigwigs; thus the event was a success for the leaders of these parties. The sentiment of protecting race and religion has been sown and sealed in the psyche of their supporters.

Behind this rally was a strong and painful message that reverberated not just to the four corners of Malaysia but to the world as well. The message is that Umno and Pas leaders have the support of a significant segment of the Malay-Muslim masses. 

Also emanating from the speeches that rained down was insidious racial and religious chauvinism, presently woven into the fabric of society. These leaders telling the world that they unabashedly want to get rid of an anti-discrimination UN instrument.

Meanwhile, the scores of lawsuits and charges levied on the leaders of these party leaders did not seem to matter to their supporters. The global scorn towards kleptocracy, which has now snared several international players, meant nothing to those who assembled yesterday. The trillion ringgit debt mountain was of no concern.

READ MORE:  Lessons from the ICERD hullabaloo

 These politicians seem to have found a potent formula to save themselves – by stoking the fears and insecurities, capitalising on blinkered views and rage, peppered with religious and racial rhetoric.

All this at the expense of a UN convention. Umno and Pas appear to have succeeded for now, leaving the nation divided on this subject.

Perhaps it was a big mistake to think that allowing this rally would further the cause of democracy (by upholding the right to freedom of assembly), when the real casualty is a UN convention to eliminate racial discrimination.

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Khairuddin Husain
Khairuddin Husain

Allowing the rally to have its day at least proves that democratic practice is alive and well under the 6 month old government. It also proves that Malays are still insecure despite 6 decades of affirmative action. Whether more should be done for them to muster support depends on the strategies of the analsysts, researchers and policy makers. It is unfortunate though that despite being the majority group and claiming to be natives of the land, the Malay psyche remains in besieged mode, paranoid of others. There is not much hope for real positive change if the so-called champions of Malay/Muslims rights continue to create fake ploys and conspiracies and play on the fears of the community. Malaysia fails to realize its true potential.