In a just society, the rule of law applies to everyone whether he is a prince or pauper, a politician or a corporate captain, an academic or a layman, rich or poor.
However, a just society that abides by utopian principles of humanism, justice and fair play is a rarity, if it exists at all.
Unjust societies abounded in the days of yore and in the present world. History is replete with dictatorships, potentates and religious figures who governed based on draconian or prejudiced dictates.
The people existed at their behest and many were reduced to the status of chattels. They had no recourse to justice except that meted out by these leaders.
Vestiges of such societies exist today in the guise of democracy, socialism and religious governance. There are numerous examples of evils and atrocities perpetrated in these systems in the contemporary world.
Open and outright belligerence is committed by countries, such as Myanmar, Syria, Israel, Serbia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and several African states.
Camouflaged atrocities are perpetrated by so-called democracies like the US, Britain, Australia and France, as well as China in the case of Muslim Uyghurs.
The world is replete with the asymmetrical concept of justice and injustice with justice skewed towards the interests of the powerful.
For example, the US declared the 9/11 twin tower incident as an act of injustice but prided itself on imposing justice in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, killing thousands of innocent people.
It misrepresents justice in recognising Israel sovereignty over the annexed Golan Heights.
There are other examples of asymmetrical misrepresented justice in other countries whose leaders repress the general populace to serve their vested interests as in Myanmar, Rwanda, Syria, Serbia, Cambodia and Ukraine, among others.
There is no recourse to justice for the common people.
Thus, to address the plight of the downtrodden, the United Nations established courts.
Among these are the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Most member states which uphold international principles of justice subscribe to the initiatives of the UN.
On the other hand, those who opted not to be a signatory are involved in both internal and/or external repressive conflict as in Myanmar, Israel and the US.
There are states that have not ratified the Rome Statute. Malaysia is among them.
But Malaysia ratified the Rome Statute only to withdrew due to smear campaigns stoked by the 3R card — royalty, race and religion.
It’s odd that Malaysia withdrew as the country has no history of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.
In fact, Malaysia has from time immemorial been a peaceful and docile nation.
Its history testifies to this. All aggression and wars were external, committed by the Portuguese who invaded Melaka, the Dutch and the British.
Then there were the Japanese occupation and the Communist insurgency and the Indonesian Confrontation.
In short, the DNA of this country is a peaceful one unlike those of America, Germany, Russia, Britain, Israel and the Middle Eastern countries.
And there is no possibility of Malaysia being involved in any of the crimes stipulated in the Rome Statute.
Thus it is quite perplexing for the defeated politicians and the royals to oppose the ratifying of the Rome Statute. There is no basis to oppose it other than to gain mundane and inane political mileage.
At the same time, it is mind-boggling that certain academics, in consort with failed and corrupt politicians, advised the rulers that ratifying the statute would undermine the immunity of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the sultans as well as compromise Malay privileges and Islam, which parrots the unfounded sentiments against ICERD.
These cohorts distorted the facts on royal immunity. The king and sultans are constitutional monarchs and do not enjoy absolute immunity as an absolute monarch of yore.
In fact, immunity against civil and criminal prosecution had been annulled in the 1993 Constitutional Amendment Act, which also established a special court to adjudicate misdemeanours by the royals.
Therefore the Rome Statute will not have any impact on the position of the royals, for as constitutional monarchs they act in accordance with the advice of the government of the day in the person of the prime minister.
If at all the country enters into conflict, it will be defensive and not offensive, and the elected government and the people will be responsible, not the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the sultans and raja.
It is also fallacious to imply that ratifying the Rome Statute would undermine the privileges of the Malays and the position of Islam.
These unfounded fears are perpetrated by politicians to generate apprehension and tensions for political gain.
Contrary to these fears, ratifying the Rome Statute would in fact augur well for Malaysia’s international image as a nation that seeks a just society in words and deeds.
The writer is an emeritus professor at the Centre for Policy Research and International Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang
Published in: New Sunday Times, 14 April 2019