“Abstention on Uyghur UN vote shows M’sia not a champion for downtrodden Muslims”

MALAYSIA often claims to be the champion of the downtrodden Muslims in the world. But when it comes to making the crucial decision, either it backs out or abstains.Recently, the Western-led nations’ motion to debate the allegations of human rights abuses against the 10 million Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities in China was shot down in the 47-member UN Human Rights Council. The motion, which was merely to debate allegations of human rights abuses against the Uyghurs, was defeated by just two votes (19 against, 17 in favour and 11 abstentions).

Malaysia abstained from voting against or for the motion.

The motion was defeated by nations in South America, Africa and others – countries whose human rights records are nothing to be proud of.

Ten other countries, including India, abstained from voting (China’s criticism of India on the Kashmiri matter and the regional power rivalry could be why).Of course, India does not want to fall into the political trap of the Western countries.The call for debate on the human rights record of China, especially in the province of Xinjiang, was sparked by a much-awaited UN Human Rights report on Aug 31. The report criticised China for its poor and miserable treatment of the Uyghurs and other minorities.

The motion was seen by the Western countries as a way to ensure the accountability of China on human rights, while those who voted against the motion or abstained saw the motion as creating a precedent for the examination of the state of human rights in other countries.Countries such as the US have accused China of gross human rights violations against Muslim minorities.

Even so, the intention of getting the motion through was merely to get it on the UN Human Rights agenda for debate and discussion.

A victory for nowIt might have been a victory for China at least for the time being. Coming out with another motion might not be that easy as it is very time-consuming.Malaysia was not the only country that abstained as there were others too.

What is surprising is the fact that Malaysia did not live up to its reputation of being a champion and global spokesperson for downtrodden Muslims.By abstaining from voting against the motion, Malaysia clearly demonstrated that global Muslims cannot count upon the country during times of crises and hardship.To date, it has only paid lip service to the sufferings of Muslims, particularly in certain parts of China.

By engaging in real politics, abstention meant that Malaysia was not willing to alienate China.It is not that the human rights record of Malaysia is any better and there might not be extreme persecution of minorities like in the case of other countries as racial and religious discrimination in Malaysia seem integral to the system.The public would like to know why Malaysia abstained in voting against the motion for the debate on human rights in China.Was it because Malaysia was afraid that such a decision might offend China or as it believes that China is not in violation of human rights against the Muslim Uyghurs and others?Or alternatively, does Malaysia thinks that since China is not the only country in violation of human rights, the motion was not fair to China? – Oct 8, 2022


Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister II of Penang.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Main photo credit: EPA

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