Malaysian government will not ratify international convention against racial discrimination

Malaysian government will not ratify international convention against racial discrimination

ICERD protest
Some people staged demonstrations to protest against the government's proposal to ratify the convention. (Photo: Bernama)

KUALA LUMPUR: The Pakatan Harapan government of Malaysia will not ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the Prime Minister’s Office said on Friday (Nov 23). 

The ICERD is a United Nations Convention that condemns discrimination based on race, colour, descent, nationality or ethnic origin, and calls upon states to pursue a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms.

“The government will continue to defend the Federal Constitution in which is enshrined the social contract that was agreed upon by the representatives of all the races during the formation of the country,” it said in a statement.

Malaysia's "social contract" was a pact made by the leaders of its Malay and minority Chinese and Indian ethnic groups regarding their rights and privileges as citizens, prior to independence from colonial ruler Britain in 1957.

The country adopted an affirmative action policy that benefits the Malays, who form 60 per cent of a population of about 32 million, after deadly race riots in the late 1960s.

Ethnic Chinese are estimated at 23 per cent and ethnic Indians comprise about 7 per cent, government data shows.

MALAYSIA BACKPEDALS IN FACE OF PROTESTS

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Nov 18 said that it is almost impossible for the government to ratify ICERD because it would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament to amend the Federal Constitution.

Earlier in September, however, Dr Mahathir told the United Nations General Assembly that Malaysia would ratify all the human rights conventions left for it to adopt, a total of six, including the racial discrimination measure.

The Pakatan Harapan government does not have a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Furthermore, several Pakatan Harapan MPs stated that they were not in favour of the ratification. 

About 30 per cent of Malay voters backed the ruling party in the May 9 general election, independent polling firm Merdeka Center found in a study of voting patterns published in June.

The long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), received about 40 per cent of Malay votes while PAS was backed by up to 33 per cent, it said.

PUSHBACK AND CRITICISMS

The proposed