Well, it’s shaping up to be an interesting weekend in Kuala Lumpur: Not only will there be an anti-ICERD rally ‘celebration’ happening along Jalan Raja Saturday afternoon, but now our very own Prime Minister has thrown his hat in the rally ring, and will be launching a counter-protest, on the very same day.
What do you mean, counter-protest, Coconuts KL? Well, considering the anti-ICERD gathering morphed from dissent over PM Mahathir pledging to ratify the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to a celebration over the fact that the government backtracked on this promise; Dr. M’s protest will be a pro-human rights rally.
Working together with Suhakam (Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission), the event themed Stand up 4 Human Rights will be held to support International Human Rights Day, which falls on Monday, December 10.
Held just twenty minutes across town from where anti-ICERD protesters/celebrants will converge, PM Mahathir is expected to give a speech, along with Chief Secretary to the Government, Dr. Ismail Bakar. Stand up 4 Human Rights will be held at Padang Timur in Petaling Jaya, from 9am to 3pm.
Their cross-town rivals, comprised of individuals linked to UMNO, PAS and Perkasa will hold their event from 2pm to 6 pm that same day. Having previously declared that “one million” individuals would show up, they have since scaled back their numbers to a still impressive projection of 500,000.
Kelantan state government today declared Monday a public holiday, so as to encourage their residents to make the three-hour trip down to Kuala Lumpur to show their support for anti-ICERD organizers, who we’d like to remind you, are protesting the ratification of a bill of human rights that didn’t happen anyway.
For some groups, including protest organizers Ummah and Sekretariat Kedaulatan Negara, Malay-Muslim NGOs, and for both opposition parties PAS and UMNO, the pledge to end racial discrimination became a hot button issue, where some saw a gateway to erode policies that favor Malaysia’s majority Malay population.
An affirmative action policy for 60% of the population was adopted after deadly race riots in the 1960s, and is protected by the country’s constitution. Many argued that ratifying ICERD would not technically change the status quo here in Malaysia, but their reasoning went unheeded, and the move was officially scraped.
As you may have guessed, it’s best to avoid driving in and around both Jalan Raja, in the city center, and Padang Timur in PJ.