THE parallels between the controversies over the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) are quite obvious.
In both cases, the government seemed to rush into action, only to find itself facing a barrage of criticism.
In both cases, the pressure exerted upon the government by various movements appeared to be too much, forcing them to capitulate, backtrack and U-turn.
Doing so is seldom good for any government. A government that keeps changing its mind will be seen as weak, indecisive, and unable to execute its own vision.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently commented on how people complained when the government is seen to be doing things too slowly, but also complained when the government seemed to do things too fast.
Needless to say, the key is to do the right thing at the right time and pace.
Certain things must be done as fast as possible, while other things need to be done after comprehensive consultations with all the relevant stakeholders.
Being able to differentiate between these two situations is a key competency that the government must have.
The Rome Statute and Icerd were similar in that both are international treaties with elements of human rights. It is undoubtedly good that we aspire in the long run to be part of the international system of law and human rights. Our path to this goal must, however, be a measured and considered one.
The urgency with which we pursue this goal must also be proportionate to the benefits it brings to Malaysia. If acceding to these treaties can create a big, immediate and positive impact on the day to day lives of ordinary Malaysian citizens, then certainly, we should pursue the goal with the utmost haste. If not, however, then we should pursue these goals at a pace proportionate to the benefits they bring.
Doing things at a more measured pace also allows for more time to consult with all the relevant stakeholders and the public before making a decision.
In the case of the Rome Statute, perhaps it would have been better for everyone if the government had taken the time to engage in a consultative process. The right to be consulted is, after all, one of the three classical rights accorded to a Constitutional monarch. And we must remember that royalty in this country enjoys a great deal of popular support.
We must learn the lessons of the Rome Statute, Icerd and even of the proposed Constitutional amendments regarding the status of Sabah and Sarawak.
It appears that many parties are sending the signal that they do not like to feel rushed or pressured into acceding to hasty government initiatives. The government would be wise to pay heed.
Note: The letter writer is a research associate at Emir Research, a think-tank focused on data-driven policy research
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