PETALING JAYA • Human rights allow for and encourage collective success, says the head of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) a day after 55,000 Malay Muslims rallied to celebrate the government's decision to not ratify a United Nations rights convention against racial discrimination.
"Human rights empower us to enjoy collective success," said Tan Sri Razali Ismail at Suhakam's Human Rights Day gathering in Petaling Jaya yesterday. "Many governments have been able to achieve economic success because of their respect for human rights.
"People crave liberation from poverty, and citizens in nations that are built on greater economic freedom enjoy greater access to ideas and resources to participate fully in an increasingly interconnected and competitive world, leaving no one behind," the Suhakam chairman added.
The rally held by Malay Muslims was to celebrate the Mahathir administration's backing away from ratifying the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd), which some fear would reduce the rights of Malays. Tens of thousands of Malay Muslims mobilised by opposition parties rallied in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday to celebrate the government's U-turn.
Suhakam's gathering on human rights that was scheduled to take place the same day was postponed to yesterday over security concerns. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who had been due to attend the Suhakam gathering yesterday, cancelled his appearance.
At an education event last Saturday, Tun Dr Mahathir said his government refused to ratify Icerd because Malays need more opportunities to avoid being left behind.
Human rights have sometimes been misunderstood, seen as a threat to religion. To me, this view needs to be corrected as Islam is a religion that places importance on human dignity and that is what is being championed in (the fight for) human rights.
TAN SRI RAZALI ISMAIL
But Mr Razali said yesterday that the historic change of government after the May 9 election, which saw Dr Mahathir's coalition wrest power from long-time ruling party Umno, was an example of Malaysians standing up for human rights.
"When Malaysians bring about change in Malaysia by voting against bad governance, we made the decision to reject corruption, to reject bad governance.
"These (corruption and bad governance) were violations against human rights. So, what we did on that historic day together as Malaysians, whether we realise it or not, was to stand up for human rights," he told the crowd of several hundred people.
He added that the principles of human rights were in line with all religions in the world, including Islam.
"Human rights have sometimes been misunderstood, seen as a threat to religion. To me, this view needs to be corrected as Islam is a religion that places importance on human dignity and that is what is being championed in (the fight for) human rights," he said.
Of the 57 members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, only Malaysia and Brunei had not ratified Icerd. Indonesia, along with major Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, had signed.
The huge Malay Muslim rally, called an anti-Icerd rally, was a setback for the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, said veteran PH lawmaker Lim Kit Siang.
"I said it was a setback for Pakatan to build a New Malaysia because... Saturday's rally would not have happened if the Pakatan government had handled the Icerd issue better," he wrote on his blog yesterday.
"The organisers of the anti-Icerd rally came to destroy and not to create a New Malaysia. This is a lesson the Pakatan government must learn quick and fast, or both Pakatan and the great vision of a New Malaysia will be destroyed," he added.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK