KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 — The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government could not ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) because it had a superiority complex, says a former minister.
Khairy Jamaluddin said this in response to a question by Andrew Khoo Chin Hock, a member of the Malaysian Bar Council and a human rights lawyer, during a forum titled “Beyond 2020: Fresh Views, New Visions” at Sunway College today.
Khairy during his speech spoke about the importance of having a ‘moon-shot’ mentality, which is to think big in order to move progressively into the future, when the floor was opened for questions.
Khoo cited an article by Malay Mail on October 15, 2018 in which the former youth and sports minister had questioned Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and the PH government’s ability to ratify the United Nations (UN) conventions relating to human rights.
Khoo said: “As we fly off to the moon and have an out of world experience we’re still very much grounded on earth in a problematic way. The Bar Council promoted the ratification by Malaysia of ICERD and YB Khairy you in Parliament questioned whether or not the Parliament knew the implications of ratifying ICERD. How do you square what you seem to be saying about concerns with Article 153 with trying to move forward and doing a ‘moon-shot’ that will take us beyond our earth bound ideas and launching Malaysia into the galaxy?”
Khairy, in response, said that when he noticed one of the manifesto promises by PH was to ratify ICERD, he felt it was not something the previous government hadn’t thought of but it needed to be syndicated, which meant engaging all stakeholders before ratifying it.
“….To which the response was typical of the Jesus Christ mentality of the Pakatan government then: Walk on water, we can do anything. And he (Saifuddin) just dismissed it and said since we (former government) couldn’t do it, they could,” said Khairy.
“I said please watch out as you will face the same problems as we did and sure enough, fast forward two months, he backed down, simply because I felt there was superciliousness or an arrogance that they (PH) thought they were invincible.”
The government’s plans to ratify ICERD were met with outrage from the public, mainly from critics of the move backed by Umno, PAS and other Malay-Muslim groups who claimed it would jeopardise the status of Islam as the country’s official religion and special Bumiputera rights.
More than 50,000 Malaysians thronged the streets of Kuala Lumpur last December for a rally initially called to protest Putrajaya’s plans to ratify ICERD.
Article Two of the UN’s ICERD calls for an end to all racial discrimination, which runs contrary to Article 153 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution that safeguards the “special position” of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak.
Khairy said it wasn’t necessary to aggregate Article 153 in the Constitution but to do so, one needs political guile and nous so that people will buy into a government’s rhetoric.
“I feel that as an instrument itself, it’s not problematic in principle. There are, however, conditions you can attach to it.
“But because there was no humility in wanting to sell that policy, that’s when he (Saifuddin) lost ground and when you lose ground, it’s over.”