Dear PAS and Umno, here’s something for you to rally about!

Shazwan Mustafa Kamal Assistant News Editor
Umno, PAS as well as few other Malay rights groups have held small rallies throughout the country recently to pressure Putrajaya to backtrack on its earlier pledge to ratify the ICERD. — Picture by Farhan Najib

COMMENTARY, Dec 7 — So despite everything that’s happened in the past few weeks, PAS and Umno appear to be adamant about going ahead with the rally against the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) tomorrow.

Supporters have been mobilised from all states in the country, they say. T-shirts and colourful banners and slogans have been printed.

The anger is real and cannot be contained, and the streets of KL must be flooded by a grand show of Malay-Muslim unity against insidious attempts to threaten the community’s rights and privileges.

OK then.

For the unaware, Malaysia is one of 14 countries in the world that has not signed or ratified ICERD, including Brunei, Myanmar, and North Korea.

Out of 197 countries, 179 have ratified, acceded or succeeded and agreed to be bound by the ICERD, which seeks to oblige countries to ensure that everyone, regardless of race, is able to enjoy a long list of rights some may take for granted, including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, work, housing, medical care, social security, education, and even the right to access places for public use such as restaurants, theatres and parks.

Umno, PAS as well as few other Malay rights groups have held small rallies throughout the country recently to pressure Putrajaya to backtrack on its earlier pledge to ratify the ICERD.

The main contention was that the ratification will strip the Bumiputera community of its constitutional safeguards and privileges.

But the government has repeatedly stated that even if it formalises the ICERD, Article 153, which refers to the special position of Islam as the religion of the federation, the institution of the Malays rulers and Bumiputera privileges will not be amended or removed.

And guess what? On November 23, the government decided not to ratify it.

Why then, you may ask, is there still an anti-ICERD rally this weekend?

For a host of reasons, apparently. Umno and PAS claim that the event will be held to allow its supporters to say thanks to the government for its decision not to ratify the ICERD, and a show of strength to remind Putrajaya not to mess around with the Malay community.

I am all for peaceful rallies and in fact it is well within their rights to do so. But instead of showing up at a gathering dedicated to oppose a convention which is not going to be ratified anyway, how about using the same event to demand answers from the previous government about the alleged misappropriation of Tabung Haji’s funds?

Last Friday, Lembaga Tabung Haji (TH) lodged two police reports. The first one was against its former chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim and former senior management over the alleged misuse of RM22 million of funds belonging to Yayasan Tabung Haji (YTH) for politically-linked purposes.

The second police report states that there were alleged ”misrepresentations and withholding of material information” on TH’s 95 per cent stake sale in PT TH Indo Plantations, a plantation company which had owned 83,000 hectares of land in Indonesia, to PT Borneo Pacific for US$910 million (RM3.8 billion) in 2012.

And just over the weekend, it was reported that TH, which should have RM64 billion in assets was short of RM4 billion in deposits in 2016.

Any abuse involving Malaysia’s pilgrimage fund should elicit some righteous anger from parties like PAS and Umno. TH is, after all, the country’s dedicated savings fund for Muslims to perform the mandatory haj pilgrimage.

Wouldn’t a rally which is to be attended by Malays be a perfect venue to demand accountability, and for the past leadership to come clean and rebut the reports and allegations? Is that not a just cause?

Unless of course, the point for this weekend’s rally was never really about Malay-Muslim rights but more about just getting thousands of people to show up en masse so that some political parties can take credit for it.

They can then snap a few pictures for Facebook and Instagram just to say “Hey, look at the support we have. We’re not irrelevant! Malays are united! Don’t challenge us!”

If that’s the case, then I really don’t know what else to say except to please bring an umbrella, an extra change of clothes and lots of sunscreen. And to drink plenty of water because it’s important to keep yourself hydrated.

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