Let us focus on helping the poor regardless of race and religion, in the interests of building greater national unity, says Ramon Navaratnam
Like many Malaysians, I am deeply disappointed that Malaysia has chosen to keep the ICE-RD on ice.
I believe that most informed Malaysians will support the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), as postulated by the G25 and many thoughtful public intellectuals and thought leaders.
As pointed out well by the G25 and many others, there is no conflict between the ratification of the ICERD and our national Constitution. The New Economic Policy or affirmative action policies can still carry on, if we and when, we hopefully ratify the ICERD at some time soon.
After all, there are reservations and provisions in the Convention (ICERD) to protect our constitutional principles, governing our official religion, Islam, while preserving the position of all other religions, the special position of the Bumiputras as well as the special position of the esteemed Malay rulers and so on.
Problems of non-ratification
The problems of ratification stem from misunderstanding, misinformation and miscommunication as follows:
- Misunderstanding comes from the failure to appreciate that affirmative cction 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 will be based 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 the ICERD. The ICERD is not against our Constitution. But some politicians, for their own desperate survival instincts, have wrongly discredited the ICERD, which most nations, including most Muslim and 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 been unfortunately spread maliciously through social media and even public speeches, forums and conferences. Here I wish that the police will take stronger action, using the strict laws that we have, to contain any false and vicious communications, whether verbal or written. Some quarters have maligned the ICERD as if it is a threat to our Constitution and future, when it is for our good.
Disadvantages of non-ratification
The critics of the ICERD should also ponder over the disadvantages of non-ratification.
They are as follows:
- The isolation of Malaysia at the UN, given that we are one of the very few countries that have not ratified the ICERD.
- By our non-ratification, we will be in the same group as North Korea and some other dubious countries. Surely we could be in the better company of UN members that form the majority in the UN.
- Malaysia and Malaysians themselves will be regarded as discriminators with a broad brush, and that will not be fair to our country and our people.
- The continued rejection of the ratification of the 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 defer ratification of the ICERD.
This is only because of the unexpected and unjustified huge emotional wave against the ratification of the ICERD at this time.
Nevertheless, it is regrettable that we seem to be more regressive than progressive and have succumbed to vociferous protests even if they are minority voices.
I hope that more public debate and discussion will persuade our people that the whole world cant be wrong and that we amongst 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 bad and self-destroying, anywhere.
Let us all together continue our struggle against negative discrimination and treat all Malaysians as equals.
Let us remove the ice in ICE-RD. Let us instead focus on helping the 0oor 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 new Pakatan Harapan government, and we hope to support them achieve ratification of the ICERD – as many believe that it is good for our country and bring about a brighter future.