Letter – Can ICERD undo xenophobic barriers?

It seems the country is divided on whether Malaysia should sign the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

So, I would do what I usually do first — open up a web browser, google it, read a Wikipedia page and subsequently the links attached.

And this is what I found.

I find it ironic because this convention historically was introduced to contain anti-Semitism.

Just looking at our current Prime Minister, it is quite the irony.

While Lim Kit Siang is right in saying there are Muslim countries who have signed the ICERD, he omitted to mention that many of them do not bother recognising the need to refer disputes on racial discrimination to the International Court of Justice.

Of course, it is also interesting to note that the ICERD was used by the Romani people — also known as Gypsies — against both Slovakia and Serbia and Montenegro, restrictions on freedom of movement and residence, and access to public spaces.

Meanwhile, the convention has also been signed by nations who do not see it implying any obligations beyond the limits of their existing constitutions.

So, now I have a few questions which seems to be asked to the legal sector. Let us start with the biggest one in the room. If Malaysia does sign the ICERD, will the government then guarantee the privileges (not rights) of the Malays as per the Federal Constitution?

Considering how this government could not even keep its promise of splitting up the Attorney-General and Public Prosecutor roles per their manifesto, it is clear that anything requiring 2/3 of Parliament support will not happen any time soon.

Thus, the Malaysian Malays should not have such a concern.

However, there are a few more everyday issues in Malaysia that needs to be considered. What about things that are not guaranteed in the constitution and offered to the Bumiputera community?

Are these going to be reconsidered, and opened to become for all Malaysians?

There is nothing specifically in the constitution guaranteeing a Bumiputera discount on housing, or even a Bumiputera priority in business contracts or even bank loans.

Under Article 153, it does however put the right to a Bumiputera quota for the civil service, and universities, colleges — pretty much everything after the SPM in the hands of the King.

It is of course, up to the King to decide what is a “reasonable” proportion of “scholarships, exhibitions and other similar educational or training privileges or special facilities given or accorded by the Federal Government” to be put aside for the Bumiputeras, as per the Article.

That being said, I see the ICERD with another point of interest especially since I live in a rented property in a condominium complex and have seen some racially tainted shenanigans going about.

For example, if the government does sign the ICERD, what action will they take against property owners who discriminate against Africans in Malaysia? What legal recourse is the government thinking against this form of racial discrimination?

Can the same action be taken against Immigration officers who decide to detain migrant workers, marking it a hate crime?

Also, can the Bangladeshis, the Africans, the Nepalese and even Indonesians here file hate speech reports against the authorities or even the daily angry customer or delivery boy who jeer on them with racial slurs at cash registers, in a fresh market or even at apartment security gates?

Similarly, since employment will be seen as needing to be racially equal, will there be further checks and requirements placed on listed companies to show their racial equality in their corporate structures?

Could people in the same company, on the same corporate level, with the same years of experience, proving they have had the same score in annual KPI reviews and yet earning different salaries, subsequently take their complaint to the authorities that the company was racially biased?

I am not so much concerned about the case of race and religious rights and leaving that for the King and the Sultans to act on this.

I am more concerned, however, towards the everyday actions taken for granted, where we see people mock migrant workers, miss a promotion in corporate structures over race, even unto foreigners who cannot rent a property or get a Grab car based on their skin tone.

The signing of ICERD will in fact police all of these under Articles 2, 3, 5 and 6 of the convention. In fact, should anyone bring up how a proposed rail line will bring in “foreigners into their township”, it will also be against the convention.

For myself, if signing the ICERD guarantees that everyone including migrants and Malaysians are treated with respect — that there will be legal recourse for them against discrimination based on race against companies, e-hailing car drivers and their app owners, listed companies who promote along racial lines, members of the police, the immigration department, and even teachers and lecturers who use racially tinged mockery for a laugh, then more power to it.

Advertisements

Letter – A caucus, approval delays, sabotaging Lynas?

A caucus, approval delays, sabotaging Lynas?

By Hafidz Baharom

Since last week, it is as if the government insists on shifting goalposts when it comes to the Lynas Advanced Material Plant in Gebeng.

Not only did the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (Mestecc) under Yeo Bee Yin put the company into an academic review committee and public hearing, now Lynas is being delayed by pending approvals from a department under her ministry and an awkwardly established bipartisan caucus.

Allow me to point out the awkward – if this caucus idea goes through for a business that has not breaches a single regulation as heard during the public hearing, will we be doing it for other industries as well?

Will we have a caucus on illegal migrant labourers in plantation, manufacturing and construction companies? How about a caucus on the supposed third national car project? How about another one for cryptocurrency including the Harapan coin?

How about the Alliance Steel mill in Pahang which was in breach of regulations during Deputy Minister Fuziah Salleh’s visit in July? What about the Damansara Shah Alam Highway construction which shook the surrounding buildings earlier this month?

What about the Penang constructions on the hillsides which have killed people?

Are they all not subject to a public hearing and a committee of academics scrutinising their operations?

Now, about the delay.

Apparently, Lynas needs permission from the Department of Environment (DOE) under Mestecc to process the raw materials already imported, to increase their output. Without this approval, Lynas production will be temporarily halted in December.

This is a ridiculous regulation akin to allowing Carlsberg to bring in extra barley and yeast, but not letting them make more beer. Seriously, do we do this for gas power plants as well?

Do we tell Silterra which produces semiconductor wafers  to apply for surplus output, while having sand waiting in their plant?

But it is what it is – and the DOE is suddenly delaying it. Perhaps Yeo is in the know, perhaps she is not. One wonders if there is an element of sabotage after the public hearing did not go their way.

Obviously, this is not under Fuziah’s purview since it does not involve sharia compliance or even a halal certification, which would put it under her ministry.

So is this the new Malaysian government’s way of sabotaging a company just to keep its voters happy and to keep to their propaganda of fear?

They could not convince the regulators to show Lynas as irresponsible, they could not get a committee of academics to find factual evidence of the danger of Lynas, so now they are delaying approval for the company and adding a caucus to review the academic review to make it go their way.

I’m asking this government, specifically Mestecc and Yeo Bee Yin to come clean because this is getting rather ridiculous. If this is the way the government wants to move forward with new industries, emerging industries and even projects that have an impact on the environment, then apply it to all, not just Lynas.

Otherwise, it can only be construed as the government discriminating and sabotaging Lynas for being Lynas, and nothing else.