Mahathir’s landmark pledge at UN gives real hope for new Malaysia

Mahathir’s landmark pledge at UN gives real hope for new Malaysia

Oct 05, 2018

By Anil Netto
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s landmark pledge before the United Nations, that Malaysia would ratify all remaining core UN human rights treaties, could pave the way for a just country that upholds human rights. It was a welcome statement of intent for the new Malaysia.

“The new Malaysia will firmly espouse the principles promoted by the UN in our international engagements,” said Mahathir, adding that these include the principles of truth, human rights, the rule of law, justice, fairness, responsibility and accountability, as well as sustainability.

“It is within this context that the new government of Malaysia has pledged to ratify all remaining core UN instruments related to the protection of human rights.”

Perhaps with one eye on the differences between civil law and narrow religious interpretations, Mahathir added that this would not be easy as our society is plural and diverse: “We will accord space and time for all to deliberate and to decide freely based on democracy.”

If the Malaysian government lives up to its pledge at the UN, it would really give meaning to the people’s hopes and aspirations for the new Malaysia.

Mahathir’s statement at the UN General Assembly is remarkable for two major reasons.

First, most of us are old enough to remember how Mahathir was once considered an autocratic leader and was widely criticised for the human rights abuses that took place during his tenure. For him to now pledge to ratify UN human rights treaties is a remarkable turnaround.

The other reason is that Mahathir once touted “Asian values” as somehow superior to human rights, which he probably saw as some kind of Western agenda. So his pledge to ratify UN human rights treaties is a great step forward and advances the understanding that there should be just one universal benchmark for human rights applicable to everyone — yes, every single person on this planet, no matter what you think of him or her. For every single one of us is created in the image of God.

Accepting UN treaties does not mean negating our own cultural practices. UN treaties are there to protect every human being so that they can enjoy basic rights in different circumstances around the world and live life to the full. For example, Refugees too have rights not to be sent back to their country of origin especially if it puts their lives at risk.

Human rights group Hakam commended the new Malaysia’s principled commitment to human rights at the international stage. “In a world threatened by the rise of right-wing nationalism and erosion of civil liberties, the new Malaysia ... showed leadership and hope to the other nations on the future of human rights,” it said in a statement.

Hakam said the Malaysian government should immediately take steps to ratify the following human rights treaties:

--International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; ? International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;

--International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination;

--UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment;

--International Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families;

--International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; and

--Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

It added that the government should also remove its reservations on the conventions relating to the rights of the child, the rights of people with disabilities and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

All laws that violate basic rights or allow detention without trial or make it easier for torture to be practised must be repealed. The move to form an independent police complaints and misconduct commission must be expedited through the enactment of an enabling act of Parliament. Suhakam must be strengthened and its annual reports must be seriously debated in Parliament and acted upon.

The judiciary must be made more independent to serve as a check on abuse of power by any sector and to provide an avenue for all those whose rights have been flouted.

It is time also to recognise that Mother Nature too has the right to be protected from harm.

Now that Mahathir has made his welcome major pledge at the UN, all of us must do our part to ensure that basic rights are protected everywhere in this land so that we really have a new Malaysia we can all be proud of.

A nation that loves justice and protects the rights of the oppressed and defends the marginalised will surely find favour with the Lord. For it is written in Psalm 33: 5 “He loves uprightness and justice; the faithful love of Yahweh fills the earth.”

Total Comments:0