Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 6 April 2019

The Prime Minister’s reversal of the decision to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is the most serious flip flop of the Pakatan Harapan Government to date and closely parallels the recent decision not to ratify the International Convention on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

The reason Dr M gave for this climb down is neither rational nor valid: He said “…the government ‘was forced’ to withdraw from ratifying the Rome Statute following the confusion created by those with political interests” even though he was aware that signing the Rome Statute was not harmful to Malaysian constitutional rights nor would it affect the country’s sovereignty:

“The Cabinet this morning made a decision to withdraw our ratification of the Statute of Rome. It is not because it is harmful to the country but because of politics where people are easily misled by emotional claims that what this government is doing is against our own interest.”

First of all, does the prime minister himself have the conviction that it is progressive for Malaysia to ratify international treaties such as the Rome Statute and the ICERD or does he consider this to be just another pesky obligation that was in the Pakatan Harapan’s GE14 manifesto? Has he tried to convince his party and the rest of the country that it is progressive to ratify these international treaties? If he has not, why not?

An objective view of what is involved in acceding to the Statute of Rome shows that the political emotional claims have no basis in fact. The ICC in no way affronts the Council of Rulers. So why weren’t the facts presented loudly and clearly for all to debate? And given that 90% of the Cabinet were supportive of acceding to the Rome Treaty, it is alarming that distortions of the truth should be allowed to persuade him to reverse this decision.   

The ICC exists to ensure that there is accountability for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity—all essential for safeguarding respect for human rights by bringing perpetrators of the worst crimes to justice. Who, except those who do not respect human rights and national dignity would oppose such a progressive move to position our country among the 122 more enlightened societies in the world community who have signed?

ICC can deter another May 13

In trying to justify his latest flip flop, Dr Mahathir made the strange statement that “Malaysia would not be affected by the statute because the government had no intention to commit crimes such as genocide or other excessive acts.”

He must understand that genocide and other atrocities occur in countries precisely through “politics where people are easily misled by emotional claims” as he has just said. For example, May 13 happened in Malaysia in 1969 and many died in “crimes against humanity” mainly because of the internal power struggle among the ruling elite. Similarly, the anti-Chinese pogrom in Indonesia happened in 1965 through the military coup d’etat against Sukarno. If such atrocities happen again, the perpetrators should rightly be dealt with by the ICC.

Dr. Mahathir’s unilateral decision to withdraw from the accession to the Rome Statute even though it has been reported that 90 per cent of the Cabinet do not agree with this decision shows the lack of democratic spirit by the Prime Minister and the return of the culture of “silence of the lambs” in the Cabinet when Dr. M was the PM from 1981 to 2003.

This latest flip flop by the Pakatan government has once again tarnished their reputation to create a “new Malaysia” and it is a sad day for all human rights defenders.

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