‘Golden opportunity to make a stand on war crimes lost’

By Tarani Palani
June 16, 2011 | Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: Parliament lost a ‘golden opportunity’ to enhance its standing in the international community when a motion to discuss Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s visit to Malaysia was rejected, said an opposition MP.

Ipoh Barat MP, M Kulasegaran said it would have given MPs an opportunity to show “displeasure at world leaders who abuse their citizens and have scant respect for the rule of law”.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes in the war-torn western Sudanese region of Darfur, where about 300,000 people have died since 2003.

The Malaysian government has extended an invitation to Bashir to take part in the Langkawi International Dialogue from June 19 to 21 in Putrajaya.

Kulasegaran said that if the motion had not been rejected by the Speaker, the debate could have enhanced the country’s image abroad as a nation that does not condone wrongdoings of heads of state.

The Speaker had cited two reasons rejecting the motion moved by Kulasegaran – one is to recognise the sovereignty of a country and to have good diplomatic relations with foreign nations.

“With the highest respect to the Speaker, his reasons to disallow this urgent motion is most regrettable,” he told reporters at a press conference today. “I would say a golden opportunity had been missed,” he added.

Bad taste in the mouth

DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang who was also at press conference said that there was a need to review parliamentary procedures.

“In developed parliaments, if you want to challenge a Speaker’s decision, you can do it within 48 hours. But in Malaysia, you can file and it will not even appear in the order paper for two weeks,” said Lim.

He added that it was important to know why the invitation was extended to a war criminal and asked if it could be due to Petronas’ investments in the African nation.

“The invitation leaves a bad taste in the mouth. (Zimbabwean President) Robert Mugabe (who is also invited) is regarded as an international pariah.

“Is Malaysia becoming a haven for notorious characters?” asked the seasoned politician.

Bashir and Mugabe are among several African leaders invited to take part in the Langkawi International Dialogue.

The invitation drew flak from many human rights groups who demanded that Bashir be arrested upon entry to Malaysia.

They said that Malaysia which decided to join the ICC should accede to the Rome Statute, even if it has yet to ratify the Statute.

Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said yesterday that Bashir will not be attending the conference due “pressing engagements” and will be sending a representative.

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