PETALING JAYA: A former head of the Research, Treaties and International Law Department has made known how the Rome Statute became a political hot potato due to vested interests – critics who ironically had agreed to its ratification eight years ago.
Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin, who was the department head in 2011, presented the instrument to accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to the Cabinet under then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and government agencies.
She said all parties agreed, except for the Attorney General’s Chambers at the time.
“The Pakatan Harapan government was merely completing the process by ratifying it. We prepared the paper on the ratification of the Rome Statute for Cabinet and sent it to all government agencies.
“All the agencies then agreed except for the AG’s Chambers who was vehemently against it,” Noor Farida, who is Group of 25 Eminent Malays (G25) spokesperson, revealed at a forum yesterday.
She also said later that “we need to educate the people. We do not want the opposition party (Umno) to provoke them into holding street demonstrations”.
(Umno had openly stated its opposition to the ratification, and said it would take further action if the ratification was not retracted.)
Her views were backed by Attorney General Tommy Thomas, who was also a panellist at yesterday’s forum organised by civil society groups.
The forum was held to debate the views of four academicians who had presented a paper on the Rome Statute, alleging that the sovereignty of the Rulers would be at stake if Malaysia went ahead with the ratification. (The organisers of the forum yesterday said the four academicians had declined an invitation to take part in the discussion.)
Thomas said the Cabinet had on March 18, 2011, decided that Malaysia should accede to the Rome Statute.
“Although eight years have passed, that decision was never removed. It was not implemented either,” he said.
“When the Pakatan government decided to accept the Rome Statute, it was merely continuing the policy decision made by the previous government.
“The hypocrisy that surrounds the debate (on Rome Statute) today must be fleshed out. The critics of the Rome Statute were supporting that same decision yesterday.
“It was an all-party decision eight years ago. Some had changed their mind. Truth has been the casualty of the fake news brigade,” said Thomas.
On April 5, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia would withdraw the ratification of the Rome Statute governing the ICC, set up to try perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression, following pressure from certain quarters.
Yesterday, Thomas explained that the King could never be prosecuted under the Rome Statute if he was not directly liable for the crimes as listed under the statute.
He cited the example of international calls for former British prime minister Tony Blair to be prosecuted at the ICC over crimes against humanity in the Iraq invasion.
“Nobody asked for the Queen (of United Kingdom) as the Commander of the Supreme Forces to be prosecuted.
“If war is declared (by Malaysia), although the Yang di-Pertuan Agung is the Supreme Commander of the armed forces, the decision to declare war is always made by the Prime Minister or the Defence Minister.
“Operationally, it will be the generals or admirals, if there is a navy,” said Thomas.
He also elaborated on the jurisdiction of the ICC, which does not cover domestic crimes.
The other four panellists were Emeritus Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, PKR leader and former academician Prof Dr Syed Husin Ali, and former student activists Lim Wei Jiat and Asheeq Ali Sethi Alavi.
Prof Shad said arguments presented to the Rulers which instigated their opposition to the ratification of the Rome Statute were baseless.
“The King was advised by the four academicians that any criminal prosecution against the LGBT community will be grounds for the King’s arrest and prosecution.
“Homosexuality is not a crime against humanity,” said Prof Shad.
He also said that the crimes, if committed before the ratification date, were not valid for prosecution.
“That is good news for those who had committed genocide (before ratification). If you have beaten someone in a bar or punched reporters, you are still okay,” he joked.
Prof Syed Husin said there were parties from the royalty and traditional elite from political and academic sectors who felt threatened and “abused” the Rome Statute to further their self-interests.
“The feudal mentality of the Malays played a big part in supporting the necessity to defend the sovereignty of the Rulers, despite the government’s assurance that the statute would not affect the sovereignty of the Rulers in any way,” he said.
Asheeq, who led a group of student activists in the leaking of the paper by the four professors to the Rulers, lambasted the government for giving in to those who rattled the public by playing up issues such as the Rome Statute.
“The government must give their expert arguments, not merely raise the white flag and retract,” said Asheeq, who called for action against the four academicians.
Lim accused the four academicians of crossing the line when they misled the Rulers and misrepresented other academics.