5 Key Things You Need To Know About The ICERD
The government has decided against ratifying the much debated ICERD convention.
But then, what is ICERD? Does it really threaten the special position? What are the changes that will happen if it is implemented?
Here are the answers to that.
1. What is the ICERD?
ICERD stands for International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
It was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1965.
Its main aim is to eliminate all forms racial discrimination and to prevent and combat racist practices for the purposes of promoting understanding between races.
As well as to build an international community free from all forms of racial discrimination.
Out of 197 countries of the United Nations, 179 countries have ratified or acceded to the ICERD.
Malaysia is currently one of 14 countries in the world that have not recognised or signed the UN treaty.
ICERD is to put to an end to racial discrimination and has got nothing to do with religion.
2. What does ratification of ICERD mean?
Ratification is defined as an international act whereby a state indicates its consent to be bound to a treaty if the ruling party intended to show their consent by such an act.
Basically, it means when a country let’s say Malaysia signs the ICERD, it condemns racial discrimination and pledges to do everything necessary to eliminate racial discrimination in the country.
3. Does that mean Malaysia has to accept everything in the ICERD convention?
There one-word answer to that is NO!
Malaysia does not need to be bound by ALL the terms in the Convention.
Countries can make what is called ‘reservations’ upon acceding to an international convention.
‘Reservation’ is a declaration made by a state by which it purports to exclude or alter the legal effect of certain provisions of the treaty in their application to that state.
In simpler terms, a reservation is an act of placing exceptions to the terms stated within an international convention.
As a result, Malaysia will not be legally bound by the ‘reserved’ articles in the convention.
4. What changes does Malaysia have to do if ICERD is implemented?
As stated in ICERD convention a state party to the convention is required to comply with all of its’ terms EXCEPT for reserved provisions.
So, Malaysia must take steps to wipe out all forms of racial discrimination.
This includes adopting laws and policies to eliminate racial discrimination and promote racial tolerance.
Such as criminalizing hate crimes as well as creating legal avenues for individuals affected by racial discrimination to seek redress.
*hate crime means a crime motivated by racial, sexual, or other prejudice, typically one involving violence.
5. Will ICERD remove the ‘special position’ stated in our constitution?
Let’s set things clear.
Firstly, ICERD will not erode the position of Islam as the official religion because the aim here is to put an end to racial discrimination and not religion.
Also, ICERD will not result in the removal of royal institutions and turning Malaysia into a republic. It has got nothing to do with jeopardizing the monarchy.
Lastly, the biggest argument is that Signing the ICERD would result in the removal of Article 153 of the Federal Constitution which provides for the special position of Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak.
Though this is a legitimate concern, it is incorrect to suggest that signing ICERD results in an automatic repeal of Article 153.
This is because Articles 1(4) and 2(2) of the ICERD allow ‘special measures’ ensuring ‘equal enjoyment of rights and freedoms’ to be implemented.
ICERD will not threaten the special position instead it questions the merits of retaining existing affirmative action policies such as racial quotas in public universities, sports and such.