Work faster to ratify treaty

  • Letters
  • Wednesday, 24 Jul 2019

THE article “Eminent Buddhist leader urges halt to nuclear weapons and killer robots” (Sunday Star, July 7) is timely as this year marks the second anniversary of the adoption of the UN Treaty on The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) by the UN General Assembly on July 7, 2017.

But this treaty is still at an infant stage and cannot fully serve its purpose unless more countries are committed to ratifying it. As a common citizen, I find it shocking and depressing to know that since it was opened for signature by the secretary-general of the United Nations on Sept 20, 2017, only 70 states have signed it and fewer still (23 states) have ratified it. This treaty will only come into force if it is ratified by at least 50 countries.

In 2016, I visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and encountered a very gloomy and despondent atmosphere. There are personal artefacts of victims of the nuclear bomb there, including clothes, children’s burnt lunch boxes and melted bicycles, and shadows of people projected onto stairs. All underscore the human cost of the first deployment of what was then the most destructive weapon ever created.

Stories from survivors, some of whom are still alive, are also told in the exhibition, creating a profoundly emotional tribute to the estimated 140,000 who perished. Their stories made me think about what the scale of destruction would be if nuclear weapons were to be deployed today.

Based on a report in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (2010), it is estimated that today the world’s nine nuclear weapon states possess nearly 22,400 intact nuclear warheads. What’s more terrifying is that nearly 8,000 warheads, which are equivalent to one-third of the worldwide total, are operational to some degree (not necessarily fully operational) and ready to be launched on a relatively short notice.

It is also estimated that approximately 1,880 warheads are on different levels of alert, with Russia having 960; the United States, 810; France, 64 and Britain, 48.

The destruction and devastation that would ensue if nuclear weapons were to be launched intentionally or by accident now is beyond my wildest imagination.

I am convinced that no nation would be spared the unimaginable horrors of nuclear war. The catastrophic impact of nuclear weapons goes beyond ethnic, religious, national or geographical borders. All of life on earth are vulnerable to its impacts.

As citizens of this beautiful planet, we all have a moral responsibility to ensure that nuclear weapons will never be used again (AP pic). To do this, more states have to ratify the TPNW so that the prohibition of nuclear weapons can come into force. It is clear that the time has come for all states to take serious action and show their commitment towards ensuring that the use of nuclear weapons is eliminated.

All United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015 to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030 world-wide.

I would like to urge these states to show the same spirit and fulfil their moral responsibility and obligation to protect their people and country as well as the planet from the threat of nuclear weapons by ratifying the TPNW too, and as soon as possible.

Malaysia, as a member of the Asean family, has a very important role to play in getting the other member states of Asean to ratify the treaty.

During the 34th Asean Summit meeting on June 23, our Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad, commenting on a bid to host the World Cup, said: “We felt that alone (single nation bids), we will never have the chance to host the World Cup. Maybe (with) all Asean together, we will be able to hold the World Cup”, as reported in “Dr M: Malaysia welcomes joint Asean bid to host 2034 World Cup” (Sunday Star, June 23).

In the same spirit, all Asean members states should come together to ratify the TPNW to enable it to come into force by 2020.

As a concerned citizen of this beautiful country and a responsible parent, I would like to ensure that the world I leave behind for my children and grandchildren and their fellow citizens is sustainable. I want to be able to tell our future generations that nuclear weapons are extinct and they need not worry about having to live with a time bomb in their midst.

I support our government’s efforts towards the ratification of the treaty but I do fervently hope that the process would be quickened and for Malaysia to lead other countries in a global partnership to ratify TPNW.

This is crucial to ensure that humanity no longer has to live in the shadow of nuclear weapons and to make the obsession over these weapons a thing of the past.


Senior lecturer for Peace and Humanity Studies

Universiti Malaya

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