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Beyond the call to end racial politics

DR WONG SOAK KOON/ALIRAN

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Concerned Malaysians would be pleased to know that Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has reportedly expressed his desire to tell his government to curb and prevent elements of racial politics from spreading in Malaysia.

The Indera Mahkota MP said he was aware of the dangers of racial discrimination, which can occur anywhere, such as in laws, policies, public institutions and government programmes.

Overcoming racial discrimination is supposedly to prevent animosity, divisiveness and possibly violence in society.

Cultural and ethnic diversity should be embraced instead, if we are to move forward towards peaceful coexistence.

Saifuddin said this in a speech delivered in a webinar on the Manifestation of the Philosophy of Peaceful Coexistence in the Digital Space organised recently by the Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism.

It is also important to note that racial discrimination muddies our sense of justice, which can cause havoc to our moral compass.

As a step to address racial discrimination, Saifuddin may want to call on the government, for instance, to push for a law that prohibits the exploitation of race and religion to the extent of causing disunity and regress in our society.

It is hoped that this approach would see Malaysian politics gradually move away from the toxic politics of race that has become a template for many ethnic-based parties vying to gain power in the easiest and questionable way possible – and, as rightly pointed out by Saifuddin, resort to a shrewd means to remain in power.

This is because such exclusivist politics is usually championed at the expense of others who are not members of the exclusive group, which, in turn, can bring about suspicion, hate and animosity.

READ MORE:  Race relations: Where are the fault lines?

Similarly, political exploitation of religion can also be polarising in effect as well because religion-based parties may assume a mantle of divine-inspired force so that detractors are considered rude transgressors or critics as having gone astray from the “true” path.

It is feared that such an environment can lay the foundation for religious extremism, which is disconcerting.

In terms of policies and public institutions, an enlightened government would see to it that, for example, appointments and promotions in the civil service are guided by the principles of justice, fairness and meritocracy so that ethnicity and creed become immaterial in the long run.

According to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Latiff Ahmad, about 90% of the 992,765-strong civil service employees are bumiputras. This does not include members of the police and armed forces.

The ethnic breakdown of the civil service is as follows: Malays (76.0%), Sabah bumiputras (7.4%), Chinese (6.9%), Sarawak bumiputras (4.7%), Indians (4.2%) and others (0.9%).

Certain positive measures are obviously needed to help address the problem of employment lopsidedness in favour of the majority community, which goes against the inclusive notion of “keluarga Malaysia” (Malaysian family) promoted by the Ismail Sabri Yaakob administration.

For instance, due consideration should be given to qualified non-Malays when it comes to appointing vice-chancellors and heads of departments in public universities where intellectual calibre and professionalism ought to be prioritised over ethnicity.

Similarly, foreign missions that are supposed to represent our country and its interests should be headed by officials not based on ethnicity but professionalism.

READ MORE:  Malaysia Racial Discrimination Report 2021

They should also be equipped with the required skills of diplomacy, calibre and integrity. Traces of ethnic bigotry and brashness would not be considered a badge of honour.

Surely, the Bersatu politician – just like many other Malaysians – is also concerned when certain ethnic-based parties form a political pact in order “to protect” the interests of their ethnic and religious community.

To purportedly protect against those outside of their community would indirectly suggest dark designs of the outsiders, hence, driving a wedge between ethnic groups in our society. It, thus, renders the keluarga Malaysia slogan hollow.

Poverty is clearly not the preserve of any one ethnic group in our country. Thus, government policies that are aimed at alleviating poverty and other forms of economic hardship should target not only those from the majority community, that is, the bumiputras, but also the dispossessed among the minorities as well.

It is not out of the ordinary for people to look forward to efforts that reinforce a Malaysia that is prosperous, peaceful and progressive and that celebrates diversity. – The Malaysian Insight

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The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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