Politics Race

We interviewed 5 Malaysians who went to both the BERSIH and… anti-ICERD rally!?

While other people were relaxing at home last weekend, some 80,000 people gathered at Jalan Raja and Dataran Merdeka to reject the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

It was reported that Dr Mahathir’s granddaughter had labelled those attendants of this rally as ‘disgusting’ on her Instagram story. Others who supported this rally mentioned that the Federal Constitution is protecting everyone’s rights in Malaysia. There was also a social media posting comparing this rally to BERSIH, especially in the cause of both rallies.

Especially among the non-Malays, there’s a school of thought that those attending were either UMNO or PAS supporters, but we had a good reason (which we’ll get into later) to delve deeper into this, so we scoured social media to find 5 people who were willing to talk to us about their attendance in both BERSIH AND the Anti-ICERD rally.

And their reasons are quite varied….

 

 

1. A guy who went there to ‘celebrate’ the difference in opinion

Our first respondent, Amin Azhar (not his real name), told us that he believes in free speech. This may be why he was at the rally to ‘celebrate’ and understand other people’s beliefs although he doesn’t necessarily agree with them.

“Some people may think that BERSIH was a demonstration held to protest against the government but others may think that BERSIH was a pointless demonstration. This is the same with the anti-ICERD rally, there will always be a different perspective. FYI, I was also present in other ‘ridiculous’ demonstrations such as the RUU355.” – Amin Azhar told CILISOS.

Amin at one of the demonstrations he attended. Screengrab from Amin Azhar's Facebook page.

Amin (with the hailer speaker) at one of the demonstrations he attended. Screengrab from Amin Azhar’s Facebook page.

In addition, he also pointed out how people need to understand what ICERD is and how it works before fully rejecting it. Just to recap, ICERD is an international treaty which protects human rights against racial discrimination. Amin mentioned that some factors should be considered such as how far the ratification of ICERD would affect the Malay’s rights. So, if the Malays are against this treaty, does that mean Malaysia isn’t facing racial discrimination at all?

The answer is no. Amin actually acknowledged the discrimination that is happening in our society and that it should be addressed. This may be true. It was reported that discrimination is still happening especially at workplace. For instance, a lady only wanted to be known as Shanti claimed she was racially discriminated at her workplace. Another report stated that Malays may be the most discriminated race in Malaysia.

But aside from discrimination, Amin believes that the gomen may not be true to its words.

“Even the government is making a lot of U-turns in the decisions they made, which is affecting the image of the government as a decision maker. In my opinion, you can probably see how the government rejected ICERD but if you were to look at other people’s opinion, there may be a possibility that the government would make a U-turn (in this decision) in the future.” – Amin Azhar told CILISOS.

He may not be wrong tho since there were a few instances where the gomen made U-turns in making decision. Some examples are the ICERD itselfPTPTN loan repayments and the ECRL project, among other issues la. This may be why many people’s faith towards the gomen decreases over time.

Literally

Literally.

And just like Amin…

 

2. There’s a lady who believes that Malaysia isn’t ready for ICERD

We managed to get in touch with Hidayah (not her real name) who attended the rally just to observe it. Hidayah told us that she doesn’t support the ratification of ICERD but she claimed that she wasn’t radical enough to support the cause of the demonstration.

However, unlike other Malays who feared the gomen would turn against them in the future, Hidayah has a different take on this issue. She actually believes that Malaysia isn’t ready for ICERD because of the economic disparity between classes in Malaysia.

“The condition of our economic class today which is monopolised by a certain race is a consequence of the history especially the British’s divide and conquer. Ratifying ICERD will only increase the economy gap considering that a certain race has already monopolised the economy since Merdeka and a certain race who belong in the B40 class is still depending on the special rights they have.” – Hidayah told CILISOS.

Hidayah believes that the economic disparity should be addressed and solved first before ratifying ICERD.

When we asked if she had other reasons to join this rally, she told us that she wanted to validate other people’s allegation about this rally. We’ve mentioned in the beginning that some people would straight up label attendants of this rally as racists or Malay supremacists. Although she told us that there are some truth to these allegations, the majority of the people who went to this rally were either observing or taking selfies without understanding the demands of it.

Ofcos la have to take a selfie with this couple, kan? Image from The Star

Ofcos la have to take a selfie with this couple, kan? Image from The Star

Oh, we also found another person who joined the rally for observation purpose… but he’s not even a Malay!

 

3. The non-Malays who were there to witness the rally

If ugaiz think the rally is only filled with Malays… then you may be wrong. Apparently, there were a few non-Malays at the rally. An Indian uncle named S Thayaparan, who is also the Commander of the Royal Malaysian Navy, went there to witness the rally. In his write-up, he mentioned that although it was a ‘Malay/Muslim’ rallynone of the demonstrators had stopped to ask why he was there.

“They were there to protect their race and religion but had no ill-will towards the non-Malays.” – S Thayaparan for MalaysiaKini.

S Thayaparan also pointed out how most demonstrators he talked to didn’t understand how ICERD would affect them as Malaysians but rather as Malay Muslims.

The anti-ICERD rally. Image from MalaysiaKini

The anti-ICERD rally. Image from MalaysiaKini

We managed to get in touch with another non-Malay, Sidney Chan, who also went to the rally. Sidney, who was on a photography assignment in the morning, went to the rally out of curiosity and impulse. Similar to Hidayah, he wanted to seek his own answers and not rely too much on what was being circulated by the media.

“It was something I already did at the Seafield Temple rally two weeks ago with a Facebook live-stream. I figured I could do the same here.” – Sidney Chan to CILISOS.

Sidney mentioned that the people he met told him that they attended the rally to uphold the Federal Constitution and believed that ICERD is against it. He told us that the people he met claimed that it was their duty to go down to the rally and protest as it is to defend their rights, race and religion.

As a matter of fact, most of the people he talked to claimed that they didn’t care about the politicians who attended the rally. Just in case ugaiz missed it, UMNO and PAS leaders were also present at the rally such as Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang. Most of the people attended the rally to support the cause of it.

“One of the interviewees I met was a Malaysian actor, Mustapha Kamal. He mentioned that, if the government is being true to their word in not ratifying, then it is also a celebration of that victory.” – Sidney Chan, for CILISOS.

Mustapha Kamal, the Malaysian actor. Sreengrab from Sidney Chan's video.

Mustapha Kamal, the Malaysian actor. Screengrab from Sidney Chan’s video.

Apparently, Sidney and S Thayaparan weren’t the only non-Malays who were at the rally. Sidney told us that he didn’t get to talk to most of them as they all went their own way.

“Yes, I saw a European looking foreigner, not sure if he’s here on holiday, but he was there with a friend. He was sitting down on a bench nearby. I approached him and asked how is he enjoying this experience here.” – Sidney Chan told us.

Despite meeting nicer rally attendees, there were some who were a bit firm in their beliefs.

NAH, BACA:
Err… So why is Najib suing everyone except Dr Mahathir?

 

4. There’s a guy who believes that this rally is a message to the gomen

Zaim (not his real name), another demonstrator who went for both rallies told us that there are differences between BERSIH and the anti-ICERD rally. He said that while BERSIH rally demands for a clean and fair election, the anti-ICERD rally serves to warn the gomen not to ratify the treaty.

“We have seen how some ministers tried to eliminate the Bumiputera rights. Therefore, this demonstration is important to warn the government. When people are in power, it’s easy for them to forget those underneath them. With this demonstration, the ministers may be more careful with their actions.” – Zaim told CILISOS.

Zaim also added that the media would portray anti-ICERD rally attendants as racists. He may not be wrong tho. When we tried researching for this story, we came across a number of opinion letters to news outlet regarding how the rally attendants were racists. Not only that, the media portrayed them as those who don’t actually understand ICERD like this video of this makcik:

This may be why Zaim believes that the rally is still relevant because he could still observe how some Pakatan leaders were still giving out statements to ratify ICERD although the demonstration was held. He also added that the huge amount of attendants would make the gomen think twice in making future decisions.

In fact, we found out that this is one of the objectives of the rally. The anti-ICERD rally, which was organised by the Sekretariat Kedaulatan Negara btw, had four objectives:

  1. To celebrate the success of rejecting ICERD
  2. To voice out the views (of these attendees) to the government
  3. To demand a clear commitment from the government
  4. To demand the Minister of National Unity and Social Wellbeing to resign

In case you missed it la, the Minister of National Unity and Social Wellbeing, Waytha Moorthy, was asked to resign by several parties due to several reasons. PAS Deputy President, Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man demanded Waytha Moorthy to resign as the minister reportedly claimed that there was no unity in Malaysia and the rights of non-Malays were being infringed upon.

Aside from that, a student’s organisation called Gabungan Mahasiswa Islam Se-Malaysia (GAMIS) had utilised this rally to voice out their concerns on the controversial PTPTN loan repayment issue.

GAMIS. Image from The Star

GAMIS. Image from The Star

“The latest information is that 5,000 university students nationwide will join the gathering. We are not happy with the recent developments in PTPTN.” Faizzuddin Zai, President of GAMIS told The Star.

However, we weren’t able to get in touch with Faizzuddin to find out more about this.

Last but not least, there’s our dude who is a bit of a rally… err… junkie(?).

 

5. Our friend at SOSCILI who actually went to other rallies like Tangkap MO1!

So here’s the reason we decided to delve deeper into the issue in the first place. Many on our staff were surprised to hear that one of our own writers decided to go for the rally.

We actually found out about this through his Facebook post la. In the beginning of his post, he clearly mentioned that he supported the Pakatan gomen and how he used to participate in other demonstrations such as BERSIH and Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat. Uh, at this point, some of y’all may start to wonder if participating demonstrations is one of his hobbies.

He was even featured in Channel BBC UK! Image from Ahmad Zahid's Instagram.

He was even featured in Channel BBC UK (second from left)! Image from Ahmad Zahid’s Instagram.

But no. In his post, he mentioned that he participated the anti-ICERD rally to support its cause.

“I’ve read a few opinion pieces (on ICERD) that convinced me that we don’t need ICERD in Malaysia. Those are the opinions from members of the Bar Council such as Lukman Sheriff and Yusfarizal Yusoff who answered several concerns with facts.” – Ahmad Zahid on his Facebook post.

He also agreed with a law lecturer, Dr Yazid Zul’s opinion on ICERD. Dr Yazid, who also posted a brief explanation on ICERD on his Facebook post, mentioned that Malaysia didn’t sign ICERD because Malaysia is the only country to define race according to religion (aka Malay is defined in the Federal Constitution as a Muslim who speaks in the Malay language and practices the Malay traditions).

In addition, Dr Yazid pointed out how it is not compulsory for our country to sign any treaties and how we may need to abide to the treaty should there be a clash between the international law and our country’s law.

Actually, Dr Yazid isn’t the only one who thinks this way. UMNO Supreme Council member, Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, mentioned that the United Nations didn’t understand the peculiarity of Malaysia compared to other Islamic countries.

But some may argue how ridiculous it was for these people to still join the rally despite the gomen’s decision to not ratify ICERD.

Zahid at the anti-ICERD rally. Image from Ahmad Zahid's Facebook

Zahid at the anti-ICERD rally. Image from Ahmad Zahid’s Facebook

“I went to a few series of demonstrations and disagree if a demonstration should be stopped just because the gomen decides to abide to the demands of the demonstrators. Because the definition of demonstration is wide. Including the gathering of the mass or the protest against an issue or to voice out an opinion in a political issue.” – Zahid on his Facebook post.

While writing on Catalonia’s independence from Spain (you can read it here), he learnt that it didn’t really matter if the gomen decided to fulfill the demands of the protesters. The main objective of a demonstration is for individuals to voice out their opinions regardless of the gomen’s decision.

Image from Business Insider

The demonstration in Spain. Image from Business Insider

But we also asked if Zahid had other motives for joining this rally in which he said that he wasn’t satisfied when the gomen lied about the manifesto and how the media provoked the situation.

Having said that…

 

It may be necessary to have a conversation on this issue and be understanding towards it

Aiyo, kenot la like this okay?

Aiyo, kenot la like this okay?

Out of all the social media posting this writer came across while researching for this article, she found out that one person actually pointed out how we have to understand where the anti-ICERD’s argument came from. In the tweet, Aazief Khalid mentioned that the politicians may have been inciting the fear of losing Bumiputera rights for decades.

In fact, finding out our own writer had been there led to a very interesting and constructive conversation in the office about indigenous rights, and both sides finding out things that we previously didn’t know, for instance about a university study that sent similar resumes for Finance and Engineering jobs that indicated Malays were less likely to get callbacks for interviews. FYI the study was done by two professors – one Chinese, and one Malay.

Here at CILISOS, we believe that everyone has their own beliefs, understandings and experiences, and what’s really important is creating a safe place for us to find out more about each other. It may be easy to straight up label someone as ‘racists’ or ‘liberal’ based on a person’s belief. And it may also be simple to reject other people’s opinion.

However, this won’t help us to understand each other and move forward as a nation.

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