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(File pix) The Foreign Minister said the recent development that swirled around Malaysia’s proposed ratification of the international convention got to a point that the Cabinet decided not to ratify it last week. NSTP/ Abd Rahim Rahmat
(File pix) The Foreign Minister said the recent development that swirled around Malaysia’s proposed ratification of the international convention got to a point that the Cabinet decided not to ratify it last week. NSTP/ Abd Rahim Rahmat

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah today lamented that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) issue has been derailed by irrational response, disallowing proper debate on the matter.

The Foreign Minister said the recent development that swirled around Malaysia’s proposed ratification of the international convention got to a point that the Cabinet decided not to ratify it last week.

“There are times when a complex matter like this (ICERD) becomes messy as it is not being looked at rationally in order to allow for a proper debate (on the issue).

“Following that, there's also misinterpretation and misunderstanding over Article 153 of the Federal Constitution and other (provisions).

“There were differences in the interpretation,” Saifuddin said, during his wrapping-up speech in the committee-stage of the Supply Bill 2019 at the Dewan Rakyat today.

On Friday last week, the government in a brief statement said that it has made the decision not to ratify ICERD.

In the run-up to Friday’s Cabinet decision, there were allegations that Malaysia’s ratification of ICERD would lead to a

situation where the country would come under pressure by the United Nations to amend or abolish Article 153 and other laws that allow affirmative action in the country.

However, Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican (Umno-Kepala Batas) told Saifuddin that the misunderstanding was due to a much earlier statement issued by the government that ICERD would be ratified by the first quarter of next year.

Reezal said this raised concern that any public engagement by the government over ICERD would not matter much in the proposed ratification.

When Datuk Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali (Pas-Kuala Nerus) tried to ask if the decision would remain as long as Pakatan Harapan is in power, Saifuddin said he could not answer more than what the Cabinet had decided.

“For example, if there is a minister and a member of the bench who raise the issue of ICERD, it does not mean that we want to ratify it,” he said, lamenting that even on Twitter there were allegations that ICERD would be ratified.

“When I try to explain, there are still people who misunderstood. It became emotional to a point that the topic could not be discussed rationally." he said.

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