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Protesters and members of organisations like the Muslim Central Committees of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts demonstrating against India’s new citizenship law in Mangalore on Jan 15. AFP PIC

LETTER: There has recently been much debate over Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s criticism of India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019.

This has been considered a diplomatic pickle. Couple that with an Indian boycott of, and restrictions on, Malaysia’s palm oil and we have the perfect formula for an unpalatable dish.

Regardless of the politicking and Malaysia’s domestic allegiances, Dr Mahathir’s remarks were necessary.

Malaysia can always realign its focus on exports to other nations, which is what we are doing.

It is important to note that palm oil producers will not be negatively affected as CPO prices are still high and CPO imports are not subject to any restrictions.

For anyone who takes an issue with the term “wrongdoing” here, just to clear the air, yes, the CAA is malicious.

It is a law that is deliberately discriminatory against Muslim minorities.

A right is provided for the citizenship of the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian religious minorities but denied to Muslim minorities.

The debate surrounding the citizenship rights of existing Muslim citizens in India aside, the law itself discriminates against those seeking citizenship.

It goes against India’s ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Not forgetting that it is very likely to be ultra vires the Indian Constitution.

When Adolf Hitler was committing genocide — that’s now a harrowing, dark chapter in history — other powerful nations decided that silence was the way to go.

By the time there was conscious action from other nations, it was too late.

The Holocaust killed almost 5.8 million Jews.

Let’s also not forget that it contributed in part to the Palestine-Israel problem.

India may argue that other nations cannot question its sovereignty and that these are its internal affairs.

However, we cannot stand idly by.

Individuals like Satya Nadella (Microsoft chief executive officer) and Nobel Laureate Venky Ramakrishnan are critical of the CAA. In fact, Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee was reported to have said: “If you are not a citizen of India and no other country wants you, who are you?”

It quite effectively summarises the CAA.

The remarks by Malaysia’s prime minsiter reflect a country’s standpoint, which makes it a collective stand.

A bill passed may become law but that does not make it right.

The United Nations has put in place certain mechanisms, such as “shadow reporting” to ensure a nation’s compliance with its obligations under international treaties but there has yet to be a solid manifestation of this for the CAA.

However, the UN did recently add to the chorus of critique — with a tweet — describing the CAA as “fundamentally discriminatory”.

In light of this, it appears that instead of courting possible historical notoriety by keeping silent, Dr Mahathir has decided to be critical — criticism that is welcome in these times.


Kuala Lumpur

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