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Cabinet reshuffle raises racial concerns

Political leaders, irrespective of their ethnic origin, should be able to represent everyone and not just their respective communities

Anwar Ibrahim with other coalition leaders in his 'unity government' - AFIQ HAMBALI/PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE

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The much-awaited cabinet reshuffle that finally took place recently predictably satisfied some people while others have beef with the new composition.

While some observers commended Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim for getting  the right mix of new and old faces, there was disappointment expressed over the retention of under-performing ministers, as well as Anwar remaining as the finance minister.

A complaint that also caught the public’s eye was one about certain ethnic groups, particularly the Indians, not being represented in the new cabinet line-up.

Such a concern prompted a response from Socialist Party of Malaysia deputy chairman S Arutchelvan, who felt such criticism suggested that the country’s political landscape was much under the sway of identity politics.

He rightly argued that Indian representation in the cabinet did not necessarily mean that the Indian community would be well served.

This partly explains why many in the community are still afflicted by socioeconomic woes despite being represented over the years by Indian politicians and Indian-based parties.

Indeed, if a political leader of a particular ethnic background would be the most suited person to represent the interests and concerns of his or her own community, then the large majority of the ethnic Malays, for instance, would have reaped huge gains from their wide representations in the federal and state governments since independence.

It’s not that the Malay community as a whole has not progressed over the years.

Many more Malays would have made greater strides in terms of economic advancement, entrepreneurship, educational achievement, intellectual development and general prosperity had their political leaders conscientiously focused on uplifting the living standards of the collective, particularly the needy and the marginalised.

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Tellingly, pockets of poverty and ignorance still exist within the community in this day and age.

In fact, a lack of basic amenities, such as clean piped water in a Malay-ruled state, for example, would have been laughable had it not been the harsh reality that persists to this day.

What Arutchelvan was alluding to is that political leaders, irrespective of their ethnic origin, should be able to represent everyone in Malaysia and not just their respective communities.

This is the way forward if we are to aspire to be a united, progressive and democratic nation.

What should be of utmost importance are the competency, compassion, dedication, integrity and inclusive outlook of the people’s representatives. Not the colour of their skin.

That said, it would seem that such a scenario would be a distant reality as long as there are politicians who are bent on exploiting race and religion for their own ends.

Worse, certain politicians have no qualms about pitting one ethnic group against another so that they would emerge as heroes or protecters of their respective communities at the expense of national unity.

A bogeyman is created and foisted upon the people to whom these politicians purportedly dedicate their lives and careers.

It is not that there are no challenges or issues in a diverse society such as ours. But these problems should be addressed amicably, without having to polarise society in terms of “us versus them”.

Society can be disunited when race-baiting politicians prosper on the backs of the ignorant people they supposedly lead and protect.

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Some of these politicians are adroit enough at making their vested interests look similar to the people’s so as to avoid or reduce possible awareness of cognitive dissonance. Hence, the mantra that the action they take is made in the name of their respective communities.

Of course, not all of these politicians have dark designs. There are those who genuinely aspire to help uplift the living conditions of their own people, but there are also the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Hopefully, those chosen to be part of the reshuffled cabinet will perform to the best of their abilities and be answerable to everyone in Malaysia, regardless of their ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Malaysia should be shaped differently for the betterment of all. – The Malaysian Insight

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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