The introduction on the Wikipedia page on ICERD says,

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) is a United Nations convention. A third-generation human rights instrument, the Convention commits its members to the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of understanding among all races. Controversially, the Convention also requires its parties to outlaw hate speech and criminalize membership in racist organizations.

The Convention also includes an individual complaints mechanism, effectively making it enforceable against its parties. This has led to the development of a limited jurisprudence on the interpretation and implementation of the Convention.

The convention was adopted and opened for signature by the United Nations General Assembly on 21 December 1965, and entered into force on 4 January 1969. As of January 2018, it has 88 signatories and 179 parties.

Positive discrimination policies and other measures taken to redress imbalances and promote equality are specifically excluded from the definition of racial discrimination.

Of note is Article 7, which obliges parties to adopt “immediate and effective measures”, particularly in education, to combat racial prejudice and encourage understanding and tolerance between different racial, ethnic and national groups.

The key controversy of ICERD is the presence of dispute resolution mechanisms, including allowing any dispute over the interpretation or application of the Convention to be referred to the International Court of Justice. However the Convention allows signatories to lodge reservations against any specific articles.

Seen as a whole, ICERD is a convention that was initiated by the UN more than 50 years ago, aimed at the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of racial understanding and tolerance.

It is quite shocking that Malaysia, being a multi-racial community, is still not a signatory to this convention.

The recent focus on ICERD in Malaysia is due to the fact that it is on the PH Manifesto because Mahathir raised the matter in his speech to the UN.

Some groups have spoken against, and even demonstrated against, the move to be a signatory. PH intends to honor its Manifesto make Malaysia a signatory but suggests that discussions be held first before doing so. A wise move, given that there is so much misinformation about the matter.

However it looks like Syed Saddiq, the Youth and Sports minister, did not get the memo and asserted that the PPBM Youth wing will reject Malaysia’s ratification of ICERD if it weakens or erodes the rights under Article 153 of the constitution, the monarchy, the position of Islam or any other rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

“This means that changes must be on what Malaysians want without outside interference. We reject any attempt by outsiders to pressure or threaten us to review any law in Malaysia or provisions in the constitution if Malaysia ratifies the ICERD.

“PPBM Youth urges the government to reconsider ratifying the ICERD if it leads to Malaysia’s laws being on the same level as international laws because this could lead to socio-economic imbalance and the erosion of certain rights,” Syed Saddiq, who is Muar MP, said in a statement today.

Clearly this young politician is fast learning Malaysian Political Speak, the ability to cover all the important concerns of race and religion without needing to understand the issues at hand and still sound as if he is open to reason.

Azmi Sharom has written a simple and clear response to some of the fallacious assertions against ICERD that are making the rounds on WhatsApp. The minister should spend a few minutes reading it.

My take on the matter is simple. Racial discrimination is shameful and it should not take much thought to proclaim that Malaysia stands with the rest of the world on this matter.

It is true given our history that the outworking of such a stance can be tricky as the lines between discrimination and affirmative action may not be easy to define. Throw in the fact that the constitution also enshrines certain key agreements, not just among the races but also with respect to East Malaysia, and you can see that some clear guidelines need to be laid down.

But the broad goal should not be in dispute. And those who do dispute it, and think that equality is NOT a goal that Malaysia should aspire or subscribe to, clearly have in mind, however they may disguise it, racial discrimination, or in their case, racial supremacy, or apartheid.

As Azmi Sharom wrote in his conclusion:

Our Constitution is actually in line with that principle. Article 153, which provides for the special position of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak, states that the King, under advice from the government, may set quotas (for business, education and civil service) for as long as it is reasonable to do so.

If parity is achieved, then surely it is reasonable to stop. This is in line with the ICERD.

Unless of course the writer of the message forwarded to me wants the Malays (and natives of Sabah and Sarawak) to be forever given special help, regardless of their standing and position in society.

If that is the case, then why not be honest about it and say that the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak are of a different class of citizenry and everybody else is second class.

That would at least be honest – racist and bigoted, sure, but at least honest.

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