Bar: Ratifying ICERD won’t violate Constitution

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Malaysian Bar President George Varughese said that Putrajaya will not violate the Federal Constitution by ratifying ICERD, despite warnings by Malay-Muslim groups. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 — The Malaysian Bar explained today that Putrajaya will not violate the Federal Constitution by ratifying International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), despite warnings by Malay-Muslim groups.

It said Article 1(4) of the ICERD) provides that “special measures”, including affirmative action, are permissible, and this is reinforced in Article 2(2) of the convention.

“It is clear from the above provisions that ICERD recognises that formal equality — where the law treats people the same — may not be sufficient to eliminate discrimination. 

“ICERD seeks to bring about effective or substantive equality, including through temporary special measures, where required,” president George Varughese said in a statement.

“There is thus no contradiction between ICERD and Article 153 of the Federal Constitution,” he added, referring to the provision of reserving quotas for Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak.

The Bar also pointed out that there are just 14 countries left yet to act on ICERD, which include Myanmar, South Sudan, and North Korea.

“The Malaysian Bar holds the view that it is time Malaysia acknowledges the inherent dignity and equality of all human persons irrespective of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,” it said.

Yesterday at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Malaysia’s human rights record in Geneva, Switzerland, Putrajaya affirmed its intentions to accede to international human rights treaties, including the ICERD.

Some in the Malay-Muslim majority oppose ICERD, which they say will eliminate the so-called “special position” of the community.

Recently, Umno and PAS Youth wings held a protest in Kuala Lumpur to protest ICERD. Similarly, last week, Muslim coalition Ummah protested in front of Parliament.

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