I was able to make my intervention on the 2nd day of the Forum. I was fortunate that I was the called early during the 1st morning session of the 2nd day as part of “Session V: National practices and real experiences: existing mechanisms providing for the political participation of minorities.” (Its the UN – don’t expect catchy titles!)
Part of the discussion was centred on consultative bodies, and I therefore recounted the experiences of the MCCBCHST in dealing with the Government. I explained that frequently, the MCCBCHST is only consulted by politicians from the minority communities, but not by the main political party in the ruling coalition in the Federal government, UMNO, who representing the majority Malay community in Malaysia.
This was because where specific racially based political parties rule in coalition, each race based party considers issues relating to their community as within their own sphere of influence – it would be considered as “stepping on the toes” of their coalition partners if one party intervened on issues reflecting another community. This sometimes led to a fear that the problems may not be understood fully by the majority community’s political representatives. I pointed out that “the political horse trading that is an inevitable consequence of coalition politics sometimes results in adverse consequences to minority communities”.
I therefore made a proposal that the final recommendations from the Forum include a recommendation that nations should create consultative bodies which must include members of the minority communities as well as concerned and well respected members of the majority community.
Although I did not say this overtly, this suggestion stemmed from the experiences gained during the abortive attempts in Malaysia to form an Interfaith Commission, which showed the importance of ensuring all communities in a country – be it majority or minority – are represented in any consultative body, and for the need for respected members of those communities to be involved in the consultation were to have any impact.
My entire intervention is here.
Andrew wanted to do an intervention each in the Sessions on “Obstacles to effective political participation faced by minorities” and “Conditions required for effective political participation by minorities”. However, because of the strict time limits, and because so many people wanted to speak, he could not speak during the actual sessions. Luckily, there was some additional time found where he was able to make his intervention on both topics.
His intervention highlighted government practices that impede on the exercise of human rights by the imposition of onerous registration requirements that minority groups may not be able to comply with. The many ways that laws and regulations for the maintenance of public order could be abused to deny basic fundamental liberties were highlighted. His litany of abuses would sound very familiar to anyone who has a passing interest in Malaysian politics.
A valuable lesson was learnt, though: at the UN, don’t jump over the first part of your script without informing people you are doing so.
We were later told that Andrew was almost cut off since the Chair did not see the relevance of his intervention at first. Andrew had skipped straight to the 2nd part (dealing with abuses of human rights) rather than starting from the first, rather more generic, part on pre conditions to polical participation.
You’ll see what I mean if you read his entire intervention, which can be read here.
Next up: the joint oral intervention on the judiciary – not as effective an intervention as correct, correct, correct, but it may turn out to have had a positive impact!