Dayak NGOs urge Putrajaya to ratify ICERD

Unity. — file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

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KUCHING, Nov 22: Three Dayak non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are urging the federal government to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

In a joint statement today, Dayak National Congress (DNC), Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association (SDGA) and Society for Rights of Indigenous People (SCRIPS) said not doing so would tarnish Malaysia’s well-known reputation as a country with a strong stand on international justice.

“As an international document that promotes elimination of discrimination, Malaysia must be on the forefront. It is our international obligation. Malaysia is well-known as a country for its strong stand for international justice. Therefore, it is all the more important that we practise it at home first before we want to teach the international community of how to value justice among all races.

“Malaysia used to be and always has been a role model for racial harmony at the international level for its fair treatment of all races. Our reputation cannot be tarnished now by our refusal to comply with international standard values,” said the statement, which was signed by DNC president Paul Raja, SDGA president Dr Dusit Jaul and SCRIPS secretary-general Michael Jok.

They said as a country that aspired to be a first world country, fairness and equality are among the main thrusts that are indispensable to move forward.

The group insisted that Malaysia would never achieve its national ambition as a first world nation when its policy framework is not based on justice and equality but subject to the whims and fancy of extremist groups.

They assured that there was nothing for the Bumiputra community to fear as the special position of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak would be guaranteed and secured under Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.

“So long as the Federal Constitution remains the same, our special position remains, and there is nothing to fear. The possibility of Article 153 being deleted is so remote because the majority of the Members of Parliament are Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak.

“Certainly, an amendment to Article 153 is not going to happen in the near future,” they said.

The group explained that Article 153 of the Federal Constitution has its two sides. As much as it provides for the special position of the Bumiputra — Malays and natives of Sarawak and Sabah — it also protects the legitimate rights of non-Bumiputeras.

What this entails would be that every citizen of this country has his or her rights constitutionally guaranteed. Nevertheless, the group opined that the provision for special positions or legitimate rights must be distinguished from rights of monopoly.

“Everyone is to be treated according to their respective constitutional guarantees. This also means that neither Bumiputeras nor non-Bumiputeras are to be discriminated against. If Article 153 provides for a certain quota to the Bumiputeras, then non-Bumiputeras must be accorded the rights to participate in the fields outside the quota system.

“As natives of Sarawak, SDGA, DNC and SCRIPS want to emphasise here that we do not want our special privileges to be turned into rights of monopoly for certain groups only. We would like to see that all citizens of this country are given their constitutional rights as accorded to them without any discrimination.

“We want to see this being practised in Malaysia because we want harmony to prevail. We want everybody to respect each other, and this will dispel any feeling of animosity between communities,” the group opined.

They said Malaysians have wasted so much time fighting for which community has more rights than the others than nation-building. Otherwise, if all communities were to be treated well and equal, then so much could have been done as all communities would feel that they would be part of this beloved nation.

The group assured that patriotism would not be an issue at all as pools of talented people would not leave this country to serve in countries that treat them better than Malaysia.

They said having so many talented people willingly serving the country means a strong nation.

“This is our dream as Malaysians, not just for us natives in Sarawak and Sabah but for all Malaysians,” said the group.

Any support or opposition to ICERD should not be based on irrationality but based on valid facts and reasoning they explained, adding that as the needs of all communities have been provided for in Article 153, there would be no need at all for any quarter to get hysterical, less still to run amok.

If any party demands more than what has been provided for under the law, then those demands are most likely unreasonable, they said.

“Much like our Federal Constitution, ICERD is not a document that is devoid of elements of fairness and justice. It is not a document that does not understand the need for national sentiments and protections of the underprivileged.

“Article 1 and 2 clearly provide for “preferential treatment for the advancement of race …” These two articles have a similar objective to Article 153 of our Federal Constitution. It does understand the need to advance the cause of any race that is underprivileged and is in need of special attention, with the ultimate aim that all races in any given country will achieve the same level of development.

“The whole purpose is to achieve equality for citizens of a country, and this is a noble idea,” said the group.

They said Article 153 would not make any community a master race in Malaysia. They said if the criteria for being the master race is based on being the original inhabitants, then the master race in Malaya would be the Orang Asli, while in Sabah and Sarawak, they would be the natives.

“As Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad always said, why bother wanting to be called a master race when we are economically despondent. Even those in power can’t call themselves as ‘towkay’ because the ultimate paymasters are the taxpayers,” said the group.

On the same token, the group agreed with former federal minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz that all Malaysians should promote the Malaysian race.

They said if those who have been in power are now opposing ICERD, it simply means that all the while they have been either practising racial discrimination or approve of it.

This, the group insisted, was totally unacceptable in Malaysia.

“We, as natives of Sarawak and Sabah, have not bargained for racial discrimination. We want a government to just give each community what have been bargained for when this nation was formed, and certainly not a master race for one community while the others are considered otherwise.

“We voted for a government to advance the cause of our nation as a whole, where justice and fair play prevail. We, therefore, fully support the present regime to do just that and not to give in the demands of certain groups who have been in power before and are now adamant in wanting to destroy what this country stands for,” they said.

When the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government was formed on May 9, 2018, there was so much hope and expectations in the air, said the group.

They added that all the reforms that were delivered within its 100 days promise were so euphoric and exhilarating, but Malaysians should not stop there.

“There are many more reforms required. We, natives of Sarawak, are still waiting for reforms to remove all forms of racial discrimination. We also want fairness in appointment in the public sector, which has caused much unhappiness among the Dayak community.

“Generally, the Dayak community has been neglected when it comes to the provision in Article 153. Declining to sign the ICERD is a step backwards. The PH government must not waver in its commitment to ratify ICERD.

“Why should those who stand for discrimination be allowed to run the country when our preference have been voiced out during GE14 for a New and Fair Malaysia? We must be joking to allow discrimination to prevail. Who in the world will oppose equality and fair play?” the group questioned.

They argued that for Malaysia to stand out among the few countries, like North Korea and Myanmar who have yet to sign the ICERD, would just be like a sore thumb. They said ICERD also has nothing to do with religion.

Those countries that have ratified ICERD were from all religious backgrounds, the group pointed out.

“We are in complete solidarity with our native friends in Sabah, who support the signing of ICERD,” said the group. — DayakDaily