Saifuddin: Human rights arena not right venue to be ‘Malay hero’

Zurairi Ar
Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah speaks after the livecast of Malaysia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations in Geneva November 8, 2018. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, Nov 9 — Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah advised proponents of racial and religious politics to pick better arenas to burnish their “Malay hero” credentials than to act gung-ho in the field of human rights.

The foreign affairs minister said last night Putrajaya will no longer act as a “village champion”, but instead will play a more pro-active role in its bid to become a respected name in human rights globally.

“If you really want to protect the interest of Malays, the arena is not here. The arena is to strengthen the institutions and systems that can develop areas where the Malays are weak, that is education, economy,” he said at a viewing session of Malaysia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of human rights in Wisma Putra here.

“If you want to be a Malay hero, this is not the place. You be a Malay hero by increasing the performance of Malay children’s education, increasing their entrepreneurship, economic productivity, then you’ll be a Malay hero.

“There are elements of Malay, Islam and the Constitution in human rights. We are confident we will bring this to a higher stage,” he added.

Saifuddin previously lamented that segments of society either opposed to the promotion or implementation of human rights were hypocritical about discrimination and held a siege mentality that propagated undue fear of human rights.

Amid accusations that the Malays’ “special position” would be lost if Putrajaya ratifies international human rights conventions, Saifuddin said the argument is used by some, such as Opposition party Umno, in a bid to remain relevant.

“They take the opportunity to defend themselves. Umno has failed to take care of the Malays’ special rights in the economy. So, this is their last chance to prove their relevance,” he said.

The minister said Malaysia has much to offer the world in terms of ideas and opinions when it comes human rights, democracy and freedoms.

“We’re playing in the international arena for world peace and prosperity We have to jump and play in the arena, not shouting outside, including human rights issues. We must ratify the international conventions and other matters,” he said.

“When we play football, we play to become World Cup champions. Not just as merely village champions. That is the same with human rights We have to play a role, and pro-actively with wisdom, taking care of culture and religion. But not doing it is not the way.”

In the UPR in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday, the Malaysian delegation affirmed its intentions to accede to international human rights treaties, including the controversial International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

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