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Avoid ‘non-essential’ travel to Kuala Lumpur, advises MFA ahead of large-scale rally

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is advising Singaporeans to defer all non-essential travel to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, “for the time being”, and advised those who are in the capital city to stay vigilant and avoid large gatherings. The MFA issued the travel notice on Friday (Dec 7) following media reports of a large-scale rally scheduled to take place at Dataran Merdeka on Saturday. A second event that was scheduled to happen on the same day at Padang Timur, Petaling Jaya was later cancelled. The ministry said in its advisory that there were indications that turnout for the Dataran Merdeka event could number in the tens of thousands. According to reports, protestors are organising the rally to mark the Malaysian government’s non-ratification of the United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) “As with large congregations or demonstrations, there is a possibility that limited and isolated skirmishes might take place,” said the MFA. “There may also be traffic disruptions and other disturbances that will impact travellers.” The ministry is also advising Singaporeans who are currently in Kuala Lumpur “to stay vigilant and avoid large gatherings, monitor local media for developments and heed the instructions of the local authorities”. Singaporeans in Kuala Lumpur have also been advised to register on MFA’s website (http://eregister.mfa.gov.sg) so that they can be contacted should the need arise. Those who need consular assistance in Kuala Lumpur may contact the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Duty Office. WHAT PROMPTED PROTESTS The Dataran Merdeka rally to “celebrate” the non-ratification of the ICERD is planned by opposition parties Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), as well as other Malay-Muslim, non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The ICERD is a United Nations Convention that condemns discrimination based on race, colour, descent, nationality, or ethnic origin, and calls upon states to pursue a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all forms. The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) will be organising a separate rally in Padang Timur, Petaling Jaya, to commemorate Human Rights Day on Dec 10. The event will be attended by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. In September, Dr Mahathir told the United Nations General Assembly that Malaysia would ratify all the human rights conventions left for it to adopt, including the ICERD. That drew criticism and protests from government and opposition representatives, as well as NGOs, that this would dilute privileges for the majority ethnic Malays. On Nov 18, Dr Mahathir then said that Malaysia would not ratify the ICERD as it would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament to amend the Federal Constitution. The ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) government does not have such a majority in Parliament, and several PH members of Parliament had said that were not in favour of the ratification.

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