Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy has said he would raise the issue of the condemnation of Malaysia in late September in New York with the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, set up to investigate human rights abuses in the 54-nation Commonwealth.
Axworthy said: "That provides a broader sense of condemnation, if we can get some kind of action out of the advisory group." He said the Commonwealth would also have a summit in Durban, South Africa in November, during which Canada would agitate for a commitment to press freedom.
The immediate response of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is to berate Canada, declaring that it was in no position to talk about human rights in Malaysia because of its own discrimination against Red Indian communities.
Mahathir said: "Canada shouldn't talk about such matters. They have been discriminating against the Red Indians for hundreds of years and still refuse to return their ancestral lands taken over by white settlers.
"We have never condemned them. There is no need for them to talk (about Malaysia)," he added.
Mahathir should realise that the Malaysian governmentís violations
of the rule of law, human rights and democracy cannot be deflected
by going on the offensive against critics, whether foreign governments
Mahathirís 18-year premiership will end in shame and dishonour if Malaysia is CMAGed because of continued violations of the rule of law, human rights and democracy by his government.
At the first day of the Commonwealth Law Conference, former Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Musa Hitam, spoke about the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which acts as a human rights watchdog for the Commonwealth.
Musa, who had served in the CMAG since its inception, said the CMAG "is here to stay" as it can play a role in inculcating the norms for proper governance.
Musa believed that CMAGís existence would be a deterrent to member states which have not upheld democracy.
He said: "The last thing Commonwealth governments would want is to be CMAGed", referring to the process where governments are placed under scrutiny.
The CMAG was set up in 1995 to implement the Harare Declaration which states the values and principles of the grouping. It watched for violations and recommended measures for the Commonwealth to take to restore democracy.
It would be a double dishonour for Malaysia if there is a formal suggestion by Canada that Malaysia be CMAGed, as Malaysia had been part of the eight-member CMAG which placed under scrutiny Gambia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, whose military regimes were deemed to be against the Commonwealth principles of democracy.