Reaping Our Racial Harvest

October 28, 2010

Reaping Our Racial Harvest

Jalur Gemilang for All Malaysians united under God and King

by K.K.Tan

BOTH the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister stated just before the UMNO  General  Assembly last week that there should be no more discussion or debate about the social contract and other issues pertaining to race in our country. It was wishful thinking, for over the next two days, delegate after delegate at the Assembly, spoke out on racial issues. Outside the Assembly, the race debate raged on, especially over the Internet.

1Malaysia Message is not lost among UMNO Delegates

UMNO delegates, like others, should be allowed to speak out honestly on how they feel on the (race) issue without offending the sensitivities of others. The racial tone at this year’s assembly was milder or more conciliatory than previous years. The pre-assembly briefings by the party president, Youth and  Wanita leaders seem to have some effect in ensuring that the 1Malaysia message is not lost among its members.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak gave a strong assurance at this assembly that the special position of the Malays, as enshrined in the Constitution, cannot be taken away while reminding the members to respect the rights of the non-Malays as stated in the same Constitution. It may not seem much but what the prime minister did was significant. For the first time, he was openly addressing a major anxiety among many Malays, which has become a stumbling block to promoting 1Malaysia. Although his message has allayed the concern of his members, it would take much more to put the issue to rest once and for all.

Promoting Positive Race Relations

The issue is really HOW race debates should be conducted. In the interest of promoting positive race relations, we should not suppress genuine feelings from being expressed legitimately or “sweep them under the carpet”. Our government should let our people of all races express their honest fears or worries as long as they do not resort to racial slurs or insults. Our political leaders should reach out and engage with each other and also with all those with such genuine concerns in an open manner.

One can argue that it is a good sign of a more mature civil society that lately more people are speaking out honestly but sensitively on how they feel about race issues rather than just keeping such feelings to themselves and their loved ones.

We should not let a situation develop where there is a silent build-up of pent-up frustrations and anger until an explosive point. Neither should we be too free to allow the race debate to degenerate to a point of being destructive, abusive and derogatory. The government should enforce the “zero tolerance” against racial slurs and insults using our laws.

Race Relations Act?

They never let politics get in their way

If necessary, our policymakers should consider enacting a new and comprehensive law (such as a Race Relations Act) to curb cases of racial slur, abuse, instigation and other racialist or chauvinistic behaviour. We need to deal appropriately with the “spoilers” of racial unity who have a hidden agenda to instigate, provoke, divide and distract. In any kind of human relations, it is always harder to build goodwill and understanding but easy to undermine and destroy and these spoilers, who are present in every society, know it.

Today’s negative race relations can be mostly attributed to more than five decades of racial politicking since independence. We reap what we sow. It would be pointless for political parties, including those which are only multi-racial in name, to point fingers at each other for the deteriorated state of race relations.

Few people are questioning the rationale of having race-based parties at the time of independence as the state of social development among the various communities might have required such an arrangement for greater efficiency in representation and governance. But there was not much effort in promoting multiracial politics and little attempt to address the growing income disparity between the races in the post-Merdeka period until it reached a boiling point on May 13, 1969.

Social Justice and National Unity

Social justice is an essential element of national unity; the other two elements being equality and mutual respect. The formulation of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1971, to address the social inequality and injustice by assisting the majority of the poor bumiputras to be more self reliant and competitive, was the first response to the May 13 crisis on the economic front. At the same time, on the political front, the formation of the 10-party National Front from the original three race-based parties of the Alliance to include multiracial parties (at least in name), signalled a move towards multiracial politics and representation.

However, for the next 40 years or so after that, not much was done by most political parties to move away from racial politics until recently. There were several attempts by the government to promote meritocracy and multiracialism such as the Bangsa Malaysia concept. The most promising one so far is 1Malaysia.

NEP to NEM: Politics of Inclusion

The progression from the NEP to the new NEM may have obstacles and challenges but the government must be determined and have the political will to see it through in an inclusive manner, without letting any sector feel a sense of loss or fear.

The NEP was perhaps one of the most noble and elaborate social engineering schemes ever proposed anywhere in the world at that time but its implementation was fraught with problems and abuses to a point that many people have accused it of being “bastardised”.

The part failure of one programme (NEP) should not be an excuse to deter the government from abandoning its objective of helping the poor of all races. Hopefully, the lessons learnt from the mistakes of the NEP would enable the NEM to better address the social inequalities and poverty without necessarily compromising the economic growth and competitiveness of the country.

The other political aspect of managing race relations is to steadily move away from race-based politics and representation. What might be politically expedient at the time of independence may not be so today. There is now a greater public recognition that intensive race-based representation in the long run is outdated, divisive and economically destructive for the country in facing the new challenges. It would certainly undermine our journey to achieve 1Malaysia.

Why can’t a Malaysian of a certain ethnic origin represent or speak out for the welfare of Malaysians of other ethnic origins. Why can’t the relative poverty of the bumiputras be equally the concern of others as well? Why must the representation of an ethnic group be monopolised by people of the same ethnicity? Such race-based political representation is not even stated in the constitution. The world of today and the new world of tomorrow would demand that we evolve towards multiracial or cross-racial representation sooner rather than later.

It would be a positive way forward for our emerging civil, plural and democratic society when all ethnic groups would be peacefully and respectfully divided with cross-racial unity and representation. In such a scenario, we would support, agree or disagree with each other based on policies, ideologies, principles and position on issues rather than just race.

A generation from now, let us not look back and start pointing fingers at each other again for not doing the right things. If only we can all develop a positive and inclusive approach and outlook from now, we should be able to reap the beauty of our multiracial harvest by then.

*The writer, the CEO of a Kuala Lumpur-based think-tank and strategic consultancy firm, like many others, believes that there is only one race – the human race. He can be contacted at Comments:

12 thoughts on “Reaping Our Racial Harvest

  1. How can this country stop talking about the “RACE ISSUES” !
    As long as mankind exists this issue will not go away !
    The almighty has made us all into many tribes and creed!
    He wants us to learn about each other and let us live with each other!
    Otherwise he would have only created a “ONE COLOURED RACE” !
    No blue eyes, blondes, red heads, brunette, blacks, brown, yellow, or whatever coloring..!

    That is why we are called the “HUMAN RACE” !
    Yet until today we can’t seem to understand that!

  2. RACE – it is only skin deep.
    Is any human being any different from the other?
    Cut open his body, try and tell me who has two brains, 5 kidneys, 6 hearts, 5 livers, and three lungs?
    Yes, indeed insides we are all equal!
    What makes us different is our believes and habits!
    Good and Bad attitudes!
    Good & Bad hearts!
    A man from Timbaktu is no different from Pekan, Pahang!
    He needs to eat, sleep, drink, release and will eventually DIE !
    Finally, for all his life the man from Timbaktu never made any mistakes, never killed nobody, never cheated and never fornicated, never abused anyone, never lied…he sails to the heavens!

    But if the man from Pekan, Pahang did the opposite….my gosh the gates of Hell awaits HIM!

    That makes us all different !

  3. If only we can talk about justice and fairness. If only we can feel compassion and understanding and translate these to actions.

    But here we only have greed and a fear that others may grabbed what should be ours. We become a nation full of self interest and full of suspicions about the intents of others.

    In the end we deserve our own decline and destructions!

  4. Malaysiakini’s report on Anwar’s sodomy 2 today says that Saiful’s rectum was empty . I am sure most of the participants here know that most of our leaders brains from dr maha tulukan onwards is just like Saiful’s rectum – empty.

  5. Arokiasamy,

    The Sodomy 2 trial is costing the UMNO-BN government a lot in terms of voter confidence and public goodwill. I have made this known to some of my UMNO and BN friends in Parliament. Surely, I said, there are better ways of meeting the Anwar political challenge or threat. Just do the right things and that way, you leave the Opposition with no grounds to attack.

    Good governance is the way forward. It is that easy for the Government to win back public confidence. Fight rampant corruption and restore judicial independence, I added. But my UMNO-BN friends looked at me in wonderment as if I were from some alien kingdom.”It is not that easy because we will bring the whole house down”, they retorted. As far as the Maha Tulukan is concerned, he is above the law and that means the law is below him.–Din Merican

  6. Anwar’s defence team seem to be headed towards breaking down the credibility of the accuser Saiful and pointing towards a political conspiracy by Najib and gang. Many are preplexed as to why Anwar gets himself drawn into a protracted trail when he could prove his innocence by way of a watertight alibai (if he has one i.e ) on the material day and time of the alleged sodomy at the Damansara Heights apartment. Call all those witnesses who were with him at the material time and tell the world ( even outside the courtroom ) just exactly what he was doing. But then again maybe Saiful the tea-person was with him at the apartment perhaps giving a massage or reflexology, so malu-lah to say out loud !!!

  7. Perhaps the Government should start giving warning signals to people like Ibrahim Ali and Mahathir that they should stop stoking the racial emotions of the Malays with their dangerous talks. Ministers subscribing to 1 Malaysia should give out these warnings at appropriate times whenever necessary.

    I do not know much about Ibrahim Ali. But locking up Mahathir is pretty easy. There are enough cases of wrong doing and abuse of power that can be brought against him to hang him by the next lamp post.

  8. ” As far as the maha tulukan is concerned he is above the law and that means the law is below him . ” – din merican

    Maybe . But then again there is the Truth Commission in the philippines to deal with Arroyo and also look at what is going on with regards Suharto posthumously !

  9. komando, you are too extreme lah. Hahahahha! we have no need to go dissecting each other to see if we have the same number of organs and spareparts lah…See, when we all donated blood, it is meant for the needy regardless of race, colour or creed. I am positively sure that the recipient of our blood did not question its source, right?

    The national blood bank is indeed 1Malaysia.

  10. God did not create any race superior or inferior, read your views and salute you for your effort. UMNO greed must stop. Time is ripe to ahve an inclusive policy for all reces. Najib and BN will otherwise fall out in the next GE.

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