Experts say ICERD is in line with Article 153

(The Star) – While the government has given its assurance that the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) will not affect Malay and bumiputra special provisions, opposition towards its ratification continues both on the ground and in Parliament.

The biggest point of contention seems to be that the ICERD is in direct violation of Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, which gives the Yang di-Pertuan Agong the power to safeguard the “special position” of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak through the racial quota system.

However, legal experts contend that the ICERD is in line with the Constitution.

“Article 1 of the ICERD says that affirmative action for the purpose of equality among communities isn’t racial discrimination,” said law professor Azmi Sharom.

“Article 2 actually goes further to say that if there’s a need for it, states shall take part in affirmative action programmes. That’s the intention of our constitution anyway.”

Constitutional lawyer Nizam Bashir agreed, saying “the heart of the ICERD is equality and non-discrimination, and those are the principles enshrined in our Federal Constitution. So there’s no reason why the constitution will need to be amended.”