Putrajaya to call the bluff of Rome Statute opponents

The International Criminal Court was created under the Rome Statute for the prosecution of those who commit genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity. (Reuters pic)

PUTRAJAYA: Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah says the battle to ratify the Rome Statute will continue, with Putrajaya “calling the bluff” of opponents whom he said had manipulated the issue through fear-mongering.

However, he acknowledged that it was “the end of the road” for efforts to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

He also said the federal government would need to be more careful in the way it communicates its policies, given the manipulation of facts and scare-mongering that had taken place.

Saifuddin said the federal government would need to be more careful in the way it communicates its policies, given the manipulation of facts and scare-mongering that had taken place.

Ratification of the two international treaties, which had long been sought by civil society, fell apart in recent months.

In November, Putrajaya said it would not ratify ICERD amid opposition from Malay groups and political parties who warned that it was a threat to Malaysia’s affirmative action policy.

Earlier this month, the government announced its withdrawal from ratifying the Rome Statute which sets up the International Criminal Court (ICC), after heavy criticism from the Johor palace, among others, and a petition to the Malay rulers.

The Rome Statute outlaws four international crimes: genocide, war crimes, crime of aggression, and crimes against humanity, among which are slavery, enforced disappearances, torture, apartheid, and other offences.

“But we are faced with people who manipulate the facts and do not explain the real things: this manipulation of facts leads to confusion, sometimes this is coupled with fear-mongering and causes anxiety which shouldn’t exist. This is why the Cabinet made the decision it did,” Saifuddin said in an interview session with the press at Wisma Putra.

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He added that the government would call the bluff of those opposed to the two treaties.

“I’ve gone to two television stations and we will call the bluff. There are people who bluff and we will call their bluff, including some professor kangkung,” he said.

“They don’t seem able to defend their bluffs.”

Saifuddin also voiced exasperation with those who demanded that treaties be submitted to Parliament.

He said more than 100 treaties had been signed and ratified without being brought to Parliament, except for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement for which legislative approval was required.

Acknowledging that Pakatan Harapan had pledged to be more consultative, he said he had called for a parliamentary select committee to be set up on foreign policy.

However, he said there were those who were confused about the separation of power in administrative decision-making, adding that bringing the treaties to Parliament would create a new precedent.

“We can’t have a situation where every time the Cabinet needs to make a decision, we need to bring it to Parliament.

“That is why when people ask me about referring the ICC to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Malay rulers, I keep saying that according to the constitution, there are times and issues where we must not only refer and get the consent of the rulers – but the ICC is not one of those issues.”

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