Malaysia backtracks on anti-discrimination convention

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks at the National University of Singapore in this November 13, 2018 photo. Mahathir's government has backtracked on a decision to ratify a UN anti-discrimination convention. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 24 November 2018
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Malaysia backtracks on anti-discrimination convention

  • The Mahathir Mohamad-led administration had originally vowed to ratify all UN conventions at the UN General Assembly in September
  • Australian professor says Malaysia's wavering stand will embolden right-wing Malay groups and pressure the government to drop plans to reform repressive laws

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s government has gone back on a decision to ratify a UN anti-discrimination convention, according to a statement issued by the prime minister’s office.

“The government will continue to defend the federal constitution, which contains the social contract agreed upon by the representatives of all races during the formation of this nation,” read the statement.

The Mahathir Mohamad-led administration had originally vowed to ratify all UN conventions at the UN General Assembly in September, including the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

The change of heart “will damage Malaysia’s reputation among international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that thought human rights would take a higher priority under the new government,” Prof. James Chin, an expert on Malaysian affairs at the Asia Institute in Australia, told Arab News.

Malaysia is among a small number of countries, including North Korea, Myanmar, Brunei, South Sudan and a few small island-nations in the Pacific, which have neither signed nor ratified the treaty.

Chin said this will embolden right-wing Malay groups and pressure the government to drop plans to reform repressive laws.

“They’ll now double down on the racist ideology of ‘ketuanan Melayu’ (Malay supremacy),” he added.

The issue of ethnic homogeneity, dubbed “Bumiputra,” has long been a sensitive topic and a pretext for nationalists to push for a more right-wing political agenda. 

Indeed, nationalists have intensified campaigns against ICERD in recent months. The Malaysia Islamic Party and the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) recently staged anti-ICERD protests and social media campaigns under the pretext of safeguarding ethnic and religious principles.

Last week, UMNO President Zahid Hamidi, who is currently facing numerous corruption charges, said ratifying ICERD would be “a new form of colonialism” that could “jeopardize racial harmony.”

Right-wing groups claim that by signing ICERD, ethnic Malays, who constitute slightly more than half the country’s population, may no longer enjoy “Bumiputra” rights and privileges.

Chin said the treaty will not affect national agendas, adding: “These groups are lying to the public.”

He said: “Don’t forget that 90 percent of Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, have signed ICERD.”


Drones disrupt flights at Singapore airport for second time in a week

Updated 25 min 25 sec ago
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Drones disrupt flights at Singapore airport for second time in a week

SINGAPORE: Unauthorized drone flying caused the second spate of delays and flight diversions in less than a week at Singapore’s Changi airport on Monday night, the city-state’s aviation authority said.
Around 18 departures and arrivals were delayed and seven flights were diverted from the global transit hub due to “bad weather and unauthorized drone activities,” the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said in a statement on Tuesday.
The disruption lasted about an hour, it said.
Last week Changi, one of Asia’s busiest hubs, closed one of its runways for short periods due to unauthorized drone flying, disrupting 38 flights.
It is against the law in Singapore to fly a drone within five kilometers (three miles) of an airport without a permit.
Authorities are investigating.
A surge in the availability of drones has become an increasing security concern for airports around the world.
In December, drone sightings caused three days of travel chaos at London’s Gatwick airport, resulting in the cancelation or diversion of about 1,000 flights at an estimated cost of more than 50 million pounds ($64 million).