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Forum on Rome Statute raises critical concerns

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JD Lovrenciear reports on what transpired at this much-anticipated event.

A large crowd crammed into the Tun Mohamed Suffian Auditorium at the University of Malaya’s Faculty of Law today for a forum on the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court.

The event was attended by all sides of the political divide, members of the legal fraternity, academics and civil society activists.

What transpired at the forum was widely reported in various news media in the country indicating its relevance and critical importance in setting the direction of the future of the country.

The presence of students, professionals, academics and activists, including senior citizens revealed the intense public interest in the subject matter.

Intense public interest

Panel members spoke frankly and courageously as they responded to the legal, constitutional and socio-political concerns that were raised. These included some of the issues that were brought up during the ongoing debates surrounding the U-turn in the process of ratifying the Rome Statute.

Among those who spoke were social anthropologist and veteran politician Syed Husin Ali, Attorney General Tommy Thomas, former ambassador and G25 member Noor Farida Ariffin and constitutional law expert Shaad Saleem Faruqi.

Others who spoke were lawyer Lim Wei Jiet from the University of Malaya and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia law graduate Asheeq Ali Sethi Alivi.

The speakers presented their perspectives on the issues and concerns including the need to resolve the stalemate.

It is understood that although the four academics who had penned the controversial memorandum advising the Conference of Rulers against signing the treaty were also invited to the forum, they did not even respond to the invitation. So they were unable to dispel any wrong perceptions or argue their case so that the public could better understand them.

What was most telling was the courage, determination and ability of the panel members in presenting articulating their concerns and expressing the nation’s hopes without skirting the core concerns or resorting to political correctness.

In this age when race, religion and sovereignty are being used, all panel members agreed on the need to see the Rome Statute through in the best interests of an increasingly democratised global playing field – which needs justice to operate beyond territoriality.

Noor Farida said the Rome Statute was not an isolated new threat as claimed. In fact, contrary to what has been peddled by certain quarters, Malaysia had also ratified the UN’s Genocide Convention 1948 which clearly did not allow sovereign immunity.

Tommy Thomas clearly explained the facts inherent in the statute are of no threat whatsoever to any nation or its citizens including sovereign rulers except for those who have committed genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression.

Instead, the statute would apply only in circumstances where an individual nation fails to take appropriate action such as police investigation of the crime and prosecution of those who have committed it.

In his hallmark no-holds-barred style, Syed Husin noted that the fears expressed by certain quarters here hold no water given the fact that even monarchies in Japan, Sweden and Denmark had ratified the Rome Statute.

Shad Saleem Faruqi agreed with the other panel members about the “truth casuality brought about by the fake news brigade”. He expounded on the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, pointing out there was no advantage in not ratifying the statute. Instead, he highlighted the real advantages of signing the treaty.

This forum has prompted Malaysians to take stock of the direction of the nation. We cannot afford to be overwhelmed by the drummed-up warnings that race, religion and rulers are being threatened.

Malaysia does not have a choice. We have become globally networked in a community of nations, together in the global fight against crimes that threaten civilisation.

We have to arrest our fears; we have to stop those who manipulate issues of race, religion, rulers and even the ringgit (ie the use of people’s money for selfish agendas).

The bottom line is simply this: if we are earnest and have no stained hands that smell of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression, why would we fear the Rome Statute?

The general sentiment that permeated the auditorium was one of demanding that the government of the day not succumb to road blocks. Those present appeared determined to fulfil their national duty to make Malaysia a living, thriving democracy that capitalises on the wealth of diversity and its unique constitutional monarchy.

It is essential for society, the rulers and the political elites to be united in building our nation.

The four academics who penned their controversial memorandum for the rulers’ purview have a duty to all Malaysians to explain their thoughts and findings.

Meanwhile, our Federal Constitution must be the ultimate measure of how we must move forward on the road to the Rome Statute. Anything less would be betraying this nation and denying its future and place in the global community of nations.

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