While the government has shelved the ratification of ICERD (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), Shad Saleem Faruqi’s plea that “Discussion on this UN Convention must continue in Malaysia, a nation at the crossroads” is reasonable, “To ratify or not to ratify no longer the question”
ICERD takes a strong stand against segregation and discrimination but recognises the need for affirmative action. He made the salient point that the United States adopted ICERD subject to any provision that breached her constitution. In short, this UN convention cannot invalidate our national law. Indeed, as Shad Saleem stressed, “ICERD is not a law but only a pole star for action.”
Respectful, informed and continuous debate over whether Malaysia should ratify ICERD is necessary but should be bipartisan. Redressing and bridging inequalities in wealth and educational levels is important. However, it is time to modify and recalibrate this strategy based on the ICERD ideals. While striving to be a modern and progressive nation, Malaysia must strongly consider joining with the majority (179 including 48 Muslim) nations that have ratified ICERD.
The last general election has shown that the majority of the rakyat desire a nation of moderation and good governance, which includes striving to bring about a change in mindset. For our nation to progress faster, we all have to think and act Malaysian first, and set aside the fact that we are ethnically different. Any concerns over the ICERD issue will be reduced when we accept the key notion that we have to go beyond race and creed to forge a common Malaysian identity. Communal or partisan politics will obstruct this. Please heed our founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman’s words: “We are all Malaysians.”