PETALING JAYA: The U-turn by the government to withdraw from the Rome Statute gives a troubling impression that the country is ruled by racial and religious sentiment, said the G25 group of eminent Malays.
“This is the second time that the government has done a U-turn, the first being the withdrawal from its decision to accede to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd).
“This is troubling because it creates the impression that Malaysia is ruled by racial and religious sentiments, not by universal standards of justice,” G25 said in a statement yesterday.
The group also expressed disappointment that the government had bowed to dissenting pressure to pull out of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) soon after acceding to it.
“It brings into question the new government’s commitment to reforms,” the group added.
The group, which was formed in 2014, added that it could not understand why there were concerns that the statute would place the Sultans and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Islam at risk of being subjected to international law when they are constitutional monarchs ruling under the advice of the government.
It also noted that the ICC was the “court of last resort” if a country was unable or unwilling to charge individuals for international crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression.
“On the other hand, if any Sultan is responsible for a serious crime, he will be brought to justice under our national law.
“There is no need to refer the matter to the ICC as our royal families have no immunity from criminal charges, unlike some countries which exempt their royalty from criminal punishments,” the group added.
G25 said there must be better understanding of the Rome Statute among Malaysians, urging the government to encourage further discussions and debates on the issue at all levels of society through forums and the open media.
After which, the group said that the matter could be brought up to Parliament for a final decision on whether to accede to or to reject the Treaty.
“It is true that some policy changes may be tough for some groups to accept but when the majority have spoken through a proper Parliamentary process, they must accept that decision,” G25 added.
On March 4, Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah signed the Instrument of Accession to the Rome Statute of the ICC on behalf of the government.
Wisma Putra said Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah was informed of the Cabinet’s decision on Feb 15 to accede to the Treaty.
The decision received mixed reactions from the ground with many expressing concerns on the ICC’s impact on rulers’ power and Malay privileges, including Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim.
On Thursday, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob filed a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament urging the federal government to withdraw from the Rome Statute.
The next day, a visibly upset Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that the government had decided to make a U-turn on the Rome Statute due to pressure from parties politicising the issue.