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For unity, enough rhetoric, take action

Pusat Komas applauds Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s and the Malaysian government’s urging to make ‘unity’ a culture for all Malaysians in the ‘Moments of Unity’ event organised by the Malaysian National Unity and Integration Department (JPNIN) at the Perdana Botanical Gardens in Kuala Lumpur on Jan 21, 2017 and to urge Malaysians to focus on efforts on instilling unity.

As recognised by the prime minister himself, Malaysia is a multicultural nation and unity is essential and fundamental for the success of a nation. He also highlighted that it is important to translate unity into action and it cannot remain rhetoric.

Pusat Komas welcomes the openness and the honesty of the Malaysian government to embrace unity and its call to promote social cohesion and harmony in the nation. It’s long overdue for the Malaysian government to practice what it preaches and not just merely provide lip service.

Referring back to the ‘1Malaysia’ concept that was introduced on Sept 16, 2010; the introduction of this concept was not only a step forward, but a vision that Malaysia would progress beyond racial discrimination. Despite the introduction of the concept of ‘1 Malaysia’, racial discrimination issues did not reduce, instead it has increased tremendously.

Ironically, the concept of ‘1 Malaysia’ is now used for branding purposes instead of what it was originally intended for.

Over the past year, several incidences of racial discrimination had taken place. Incidences where racist lecture materials by a UTM lecturer which portrayed Hindus as “dirty” and the inaccurate text on the history of Sikhism; the ‘halal-cake’ policy by McDonald’s and A&W; a ‘Muslims’ only signboard at a public toilet; erecting a model tombstone within a compound of a school and The Body Shop job advertising for Chinese only applicants, are some examples of the manifestation of the eroding social fabric among Malaysians.

Even those from the ruling party like Jamal Md Yunos were not chastised after making racially derogatory remarks such as “Cina Babi”. Furthermore, a supreme council member of Umno, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, was also seen playing racial politics by stating that only Umno is capable of bringing the Malays towards the pinnacle of achievement during the opening of the Dungun Umno assembly in 2016.

In fact, it would have been one of great “moments of unity” if the Malaysian government could chastise these political leaders and distance itself from these individuals and reiterate that Malaysia is a place for all Malaysians.

Pusat Komas has been urging the Malaysian government to “take the lead” and to carry out intense initiatives to increase social awareness and educate the public through mass campaigns, public information and especially through the formal education system.

This will be in order to educate, promote and instil consciousness and eradicate racism and discrimination at all levels of the Malaysian society and to also ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). The ratification of the ICERD will be able to show the political will of the government to comply to international standards on non-discrimination.

It is time for Malaysia to move away from ad-hoc celebrations that only show a glimmer of hope for short brilliant “moments of unity”. Serious soul-searching is needed for all Malaysians to unite once again on common trust and respect for all. We should never allow political manoeuvring to further erode the fabric of a united Malaysia.

RYAN CHUA is programme coordinator on the Non-Discrimination Programme, Pusat Komas.

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