The “Himpunan812”, anti ICERD rally in Kuala Lumpur recorded an unprecedented show of Malaysian citizens, many of whom are the Malay Muslims and Bumiputra (original peoples of Sabah and Sarawak), and a number of other races supporting the cause.
The strong congregation of an estimated 300,000 - 500,000 people (some claimed it to have reached 1.5 million) was reported to be the most well organised, with not a single incident of unruly-ness reported.
All the main streets thronged by the rally participants were also kept clear of rubbish when the crowd dispersed at around 6pm, and and was ‘returned’ to the city council in a clean state.
Post Independence, Malaysians went to the streets in a major way since the first call for ‘Reformasi’, when the then Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim was ousted for sodomy allegations. That was in 1998. The nation of 32 million people has since witnessed 5 more major street rallies, all organised under the “Bersih” flagship, fighting for a cleaner and more transparent election process.
On Dec 8, Malaysian citizens made another history, when they rallied against the ratification of ICERD, a UN treaty.
The rally, dubbed with the hashtag “Himpunan812”, was organised by the Daulat NGO, and quickly gained support from other NGOs. PAS and UMNO, both Malay-dominant political parties also joined in the campaign, as it fights to uphold the Malaysian constitution, and champions the rights of the Malays and the Bumipitra.
The organisation of the rally was triggered when the Prime Minister announced at the UN Assembly recently, that Malaysia would be ratifying the ICERD treaty in early 2019.
ICERD, which stands for the International Convention for the Elimination of (All) Racial Discrimination, is one of UN’s treaty which has been identified for ratification by the government.
The agenda to ratify the treaty is being championed by SUHAKAM (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia) and pushed through in the cabinet by certain factions of the the current government.
The cause is lobbied within the first year of the new government taking office, after ousting Barisan Nasional, the coalition that ruled the country for 61 years. The new government, the Pakatan Harapan coalition beat the former in Malaysia’s historic 14th General Election earlier on May 9, this year.
The groups opposing the ICERD ratification are concerned over the “intent of strong factions within the government to meddle with the constitution”, especially with regards to Article 153, which protects the rights of the Malays and the Bumiputra peoples, to special privileges.
It also touches on issues of the Malay language as the national language, Islam as the country’s official religion and the status of the monarchy in the country’s political system.
Photo: fb/Sekretariat Daulat [/caption]
The Pro ICERD groups insist that the Malays are getting riled up over unfounded allegations, and maintains that ICERD will only make Malaysia a better country, providing equality to all.
Days before the rally, many quarters on mainstream and social media, mainly pro ICERD, expressed concerns over possible 'riots' by rally participants, whom a few termed as 'supremacists' and 'mobs'. Those concerns were proven wrong as no untoward incidents was reported throughout the rally.
The rally was originally organised as a protest against the ICERD ratification, but was later amended to a show of gratitude towards the government’s (sudden) decision not to ratify the treaty.
“Himpunan 812” had 4 objectives, which was made clear to the government.
1. To celebrate and support the government’s decision, to not pursue and ratify the ICERD agenda.
2. To make our stand (the organiser, NGOs and participants of the rally) so that the Malaysian government does not ratify any other conventions, that are in conflict and pose a threat to the sovereignty of our constitution.
3. To get the full commitment of the Malaysian government, that any motion such as ICERD, and any other conventions that are contradicting, and not in tandem with our constitution, be presented in the Parliament formally, and is put on record.
4. To call upon the Minister of National Unity and Social Well Being, to resign, and publicly apologise to the peoples of Malaysia, and to withdraw all his misleading, seditious and insulting statements.
Photo: fb/Mohamad Jamalee