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Stop playing on racial anxieties

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The Socialist Party of Malaysia is both disappointed and alarmed that the Pakatan Harapan government is itself stirring up inter-ethnic tensions.

The people voted you in with the expectation you would build a just and more harmonious society. By and large Malaysians are a tolerant people and most people of all races would like to build inter-ethnic understanding and harmony – for we all realise we need to work together to guarantee a better future for our children.

But you, Pakatan Harapan, seem to be playing on racial anxieties lately. Barely two weeks ago, the education minister announced the implementation of khat at primary four level in all schools?

We agree there is a need for the different ethnic groups in Malaysia to learn about and appreciate each other’s cultures. That would help to build harmony among the different ethnic groups.

But this sudden unilateral decision to introduce khat without prior consultation is having the opposite effect – of deepening the divisions between the ethnic groups.

Doesn’t Maszlee know that many non-Malay parents are anxious that there is a tendency to Islamise non-Malay children attending public schools? Taken against this backdrop, the khat proposal just heightens suspicions among some that the government is trying to “Islamise” society even further.

Then as if to up the ante, the Selangor government attempted to introduce a bill allowing the conversion of children unilaterally by one of the parents. Though this problem has only affected about half a dozen couples in the past 10 years, it is an issue that has been widely publicised and is an emotive one.

Come on, PH! You should know our society in the 60 years of racial politicking has created suspicions and fears in all the ethnic groups that their legitimate interests – economic, cultural and religious – might be compromised. So why these unnecessary initiatives? What is going on, PH?

Some people speculate that this stirring of ethnic issues is being done on purpose to weaken certain coalition partners, and/or to distract attention from issues involving certain leaders.

PH too has come into power with the promise of enhancing our racial integration and equality; so why betray your constituents?

We would like to advise the presidential council of the PH leaders to set up a high-level committee to vet all new policies and initiatives touching on language, religion and education before permitting the ministers concerned to announce these.

At the same time, we appeal to all the citizens groups who are mobilising to protest these two initiatives to be judicious in their use of words and slogans to oppose them. You certainly have the right to gather and protest the ill-conceived decisions. But these ill-conceived decisions do not give anyone the licence to lash out indiscriminately at any religion or any ethnic group.

Inter-ethnic understanding and harmony is a fragile flower that we all need to nurture. And it is crucial to our efforts to build a more just society for all of us. Let us not allow dirty politicking within the PH to derail our efforts to build a better and more harmonious Malaysia.

12 August 2019

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