Is This The Promised Malaysia Baru

Quick, stock up your fridges!
Brian Lee
It is 11 months after the historical 9th May 2018 General Elections where the majority of Malaysians chose to give Pakatan Harapan their vote with hope that they will do a better job than the previous government which had various accusations of corruptions and abuse of power. Yet today, many Malaysians are left confused, disappointed and wondering as to whether they did the right thing by choosing this current government or not. And the way the government is handling new issues is just making people more upset especially since many election promises and the election manifesto have not been fulfilled.
Let’s look at the current issue of the Rome Statute ratification and attempt to look at it from various angles with a neutral perspective.

The government had failed in trying to ratify the ICERD convention. They announced what they planned to do and then there was public backlash and then the government had to do a U-turn and announce that they will not ratify it. However the government did not learn their lesson about PR communication and engaging with the rakyat effectively from the ICERD episode. Instead, they took a shortcut to avoid the ICERD like backlash. So they decided to sign the instrument to accede to the Rome Statute first and then only announce to the public. The Foreign Minister, Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah said everything is good, the Rome Statute is good, and the King does not have to worry as he cannot declare war without the advice of the prime minister.  The explanations were as simple as that. And obviously the King was briefed that the Foreign Minister had informed him of the Cabinet’s decision to accede to the Rome Statute. How much other information was provided can only be anyone’s guess. But from what has happened, it looks like very little information was provided besides a chronology of events leading to the signing of the instrument. When the Conference of Rulers met and later informed the government of their views, Prime Minister Tun Mahathir after a few days announced that Malaysia will withdraw from the Rome Statute in a very fiery press conference. The Prime Minister said the withdrawal was due to the confusion of “one particular person who wants to be free to beat up people”. “If he does that, I will send the police after him. I do not care who he is. It is an attempt to blacken the good name of the government”. Additionally, the Prime Minister and other ministers started issuing statements that this withdrawal was also an attempt to prevent certain parties from trying to topple the PM or carry out a coup d’etat. In summary, first the government it bulldozed through and when the Rulers gave their opinion, the government cried wolf and chose the excuse of an attempt to overthrow the government.
First, very little information was provided initially to the average man and woman on the street. Being a complex topic on international law which has various impacts and benefits the government failed to educate the public. And besides legal professionals, others are unlikely to understand such complex international law. Since many did not understand it, there were very few questions and hardly any backlash compared to the ICERD issue. This would have been the ideal situation for the government to avoid resistance. Then when the rakyat heard of the Conference of Rulers meeting, many were eager to hear what the Rulers discussed or decided upon. When the rakyat heard about the withdrawal, some got even more confused with all this talk about toppling the government and a person beating others besides the usual linkages to damage done by the previous government. When news articles started to appear on social media about the work done by a few academic experts which were called to brief the Rulers, the opinions from constitutional experts who wrote to various media, some other lawyers who wrote their opinions and also the Johor Prince who shared some summary points on his social media … only then people started to understand what the Rome Statute is all about regardless whether to support or to oppose it. And the rakyat took to social media to air their own opinions. However, many felt disappointed at this stage as the government had failed to share this information or educate the people at the initial stages. And some felt in a way this was probably done to mislead public sentiment towards the actual issues that can be sensitive. The important question that still lingers on is why did the government not share all these information from day 1? Is it because they want the public to remain in the dark or the government’s advisors were simply incompetent? THE RULERS :
The King was obviously briefed about the decision to accede to the Rome Statute by the Foreign Minister including the chronology of it. Other details are still not known till today. One can only assume that due to lack of information the Rulers chose to call independent experts and government experts including the Attorney General to give their views and opinions. The Johor Sultan and Crown Prince had also voiced out their opinions against the Rome Statute. Subsequently the Conference of Rulers had a meeting and what is known today is that the following were invited to present their views :
Foreign Minister – Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah
Attorney General – Tommy Thomas
Academic expert – Professor Shad Faruqi
Academic experts – Professor Dr Rahmat, Professor Shamrayu, Dr Fareed and Hisham Hanafi
Finally after getting the balanced views from various experts on both supporting and being against the Rome Statute, the Conference of Rulers decided to inform the government that they believe the Rome Statute affects their positions and privileges and has other issues which can have a negative impact to the country as a whole. The important question that still lingers on is, why did the government not share detailed information and briefed the Rulers on day 1 itself? Is it because they wanted the Rulers to remain in the dark or the government’s advisors were also  incompetent? Can this failure by the government to provide sufficient and timely information be considered as an act against the Istana Negara and against the other Rulers?
Fast forward to today, whether we as Malaysians like it or not, where is the promised Malaysia Baru in this Rome Statute issue?
Well, we currently have government leaders who consist of politicians we chose that have been exposed to have fake degrees or qualifications from diploma mills. And many of them have now given opinions about the Rome Statute which they failed to educate us the rakyat initially or provided any info. We have independent academic experts who have given factual based explanations to the Rulers but they were mocked online for doing so because others think that they are more intelligent. And we also have a group of student activists who claim to know more than professors who have done years of research on such matters. And finally we the rakyat have started to believe that very soon an attempt to topple the government is going to happen regardless of however that is linked to the withdrawal of the Rome Statute ratification. Quick, stock up your fridges, get the pop corn and welcome to the realities of the promised Malaysia Baru!

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