Dr M calls for overhaul of veto power in UN address

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by BERNAMA

PRIME Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) has pressed for an overhaul of the veto power structure within the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to prevent abuses by a select group of countries, calling it undemocratic and irrelevant.

The world’s oldest leader, in his UN General Assembly address, expressed his frustration over the lack of action by the international body in preventing wars and in settling disputes which have escalated between certain countries.

Dr Mahathir called on the hypocrisy of the five permanent members of the UNSC who had granted themselves power after the Second World War to negate the wishes of nearly 200 UN members, while claiming to be champions of democracy and human rights.

“The time has come when the veto power should be modified if it cannot be done away with completely. The veto should only be valid if two veto powers together with three non-veto members agree to apply it. That way abuses would be less frequent,” Dr Mahathir said.

He said veto power has resulted in an arms race between the five states with each relying on their military might to disempower any attempt to take their power away. Official UN records show that a total of 205 resolutions were vetoed by at least one of the five members between 1946 and 2019.

These resolutions involved matters pertaining to the admission of certain countries into the UN in the earlier days, to conflicts in Africa and the Middle East in recent years. Russia has been the most frequent user of the veto, followed by the US, the UK, France and China.

“How much longer should this group be allowed to exercise this power? How long, forever? The unspoken time frame seems to be eternal,” Dr Mahathir mulled over.

Dr Mahathir, who has long been a critic of the West, cited the UN’s inability to address longstanding issues such as the Palestine-Israel conflict, which he described as the origin of terrorism engineered by Western countries.

He said, while Malaysia accepts the state of Israel as a fait accompli, it cannot accept the blatant seizure of Palestine land by Israel for their settlements as well as the occupation of Jerusalem by Israel.

“The great democrats talk incessantly about the rule of law. But they are selective. Friends may break any law and get away scot-free. Thus, Israel can break all the international laws and norms of the world and it will continue to be supported and defended. The unfriendly countries can do nothing right. There is no justice in the world,” he said.

Dr Mahathir also took the opportunity to address the plight of the Rohingyas in Myanmar where he said the helplessness of the world in stopping the atrocities committed had diminished the regard for the resolution of the UN.

The elderly statesman went on to talk about the lack of free trade, which he said is exemplified by the European Union’s ban on palm oil, and the imposition of sanctions on select countries that appear to benefit the rich.

Dr Mahathir also urged the international community to pay attention to climate change, instead of preparing for war.

“We should learn how to mitigate these natural disasters. We should be constructing shelters, make rain and grow food without sunlight and evacuate the sea side. We should have teams of well-equipped disaster experts ready to rush to disaster areas. Every disaster is a world disaster,” he said.

“If we reduce our budget for killing people, we will have the funds for research and preparation.”