Thursday, June 28, 2007

Abolish the Criteria of Race and also Religion in Forms

Jeff Ooi spoke in the 'Re-thinking Malaysia: Media and Civil Society' public forum co-organised by organised by Youth For Change (Y4C) and National Young Lawyers Committee (NYLC), Bar Council.

In his Merdeka 1234 blog entry, it was suggested that forms requiring the entry of ( 1 ) for Malay; ( 2 ) for Chinese; ( 3 ) for Indian; and ( 4 ) Lain-lain for the field of "Race" to be abolished.

I am living in this country which is governed almost entirely based on racial structures. Everything; From the areas of business to education runs from the racial aspect.

As a Malaysian, I am no stranger to racism or in its slightly more polite form racialism. I definitely welcome this move. As you can see, for these past few years, racism has been rampant. There had been the infamous racial incident in Kampong Medan, May 13 threats in meetings, cries of "Supremacy", racist demands in job application etc. etc. Rude and racist statements are also prevalent in the websphere. There are those who call the other race as "pigs" and names which do not belong to the "nice" category.

When I refer to racists, bear in mind that it encompasses all Malaysians, be it Malay, Chinese, Indian and everything in between. I do believe, every single Malaysian has been one way or another do or say something racist once in our life. It is high time for us to change our third-world mentality.

We are now drilling into the weakness of racism rather than capitalising on the strength of multi-culturalism. I agree with Omega Lee who wrote a letter by the title of "Malay-Chinese antagonism won’t serve either side" to Malaysiakini. That is why the economic growth of our country is not exactly good. Foreign investors are shunning our country. Thierry Rommel, the European Union envoy commented on the discrimination policies in Malaysia.

These days, discrimination is not only limited to race. If it's possible, in addition to the original idea, I would like to suggest the abolishment of the "religion" category from all forms as well.

There is no doubt, calls to abolish aspects detrimental to national unity is great. This is not the first time such ideas are tabled and discussed. They sound good in theory but how are these organisations planning to put it into practice?

Still, we are required to fill in our "race" and "religion" in almost all forms nationwide. Failure to comply would mean we are rejected from participating in any events, dismissed from memberships, denied entries into institutions or unable to update our passports, bank books and ICs.

Are Malaysians ready to go through "hell" for that?

Perhaps, these are the main issues that should be addressed. Otherwise, it will all be talk and no concrete plan for effective execution and Malaysia will return to square one.

1 comment:

Simon Wee said...

Bar Council/Y4C’s continuing “Rethinking Malaysia” forum series hit a sour note last night when one of the panel speakers advised youth to seek “greener pasture” if the situation in Malaysia becomes untenable.

The advice was given by Datuk Paul Low, Secretary General of Transparency International Malaysia, when he cautioned the Malaysian Government against unjust policies in this age of globalization where people have high mobility.

Last night’s forum titled “Media and Civil Society” saw a turnout of about 60 people most of whom were below the ages of 20.

The first panel speaker Jeff Ooi, a prominent blogger in www. lamented the fact Malaysia media was controlled tightly by the ruling parties. As such the newspapers devoted all their effort one-sidely on pro-government news. The rest of it was the sentionalisation of rape, murder and robbery.

On a civil society, his wish-list would contain one where Malaysia would get rid of what he called “Merdeka 1234”—1 for Malay, 2 for Chinese, 3 for Indian and 4 for Others.

“Let us one day be colour blind in this regard,” he said.

The second speaker, Elizabeth Wong of Suaram and also a blogger under, pointed out that the “other news” which could balance the citizens’ exposure were unfortunately in the blogs. But the majority of Malaysians do not have access to that.

She gave the example of her experience during the Ijok bye-election. There was no broadband and she had to use the slow connection.

“When the bill came, it was more than a thousand ringgit for just the 7-day of usage!” she exclaimed.

Datuk Paul Low of Transparency International wanted all news touching on sensitive issues be banned from being published. He gave the example of “burning of a temple” and having the media asking and getting all the provocative answers.

“If these were to be published then we may have a riot. There will be a curfew and you and I will not be able to go about our business,” he said.

But the question is, in the Malaysian context where many of the actions are media-driven (Ask Michael Chong, he is an expert in this) would not silence create more frustrations and non-action.

A member of the audience put forth a query that given the unique Malaysian situation, would the “Rethinking Malaysia” called for a new social contract as the current one was creating a lot of frictions among the various races.

Paul Low replied a new social contract was unnecessary in this age of globalization as young people can easily seek “greener pasture” elsewhere.

When pointed out that he should not be giving such advice to the young impressionable minds but instead should tell them to stay to make this place better, Paul Low drew the example of the European Union where there was great mobility of people and labour.

If Asean thus become like EU then the movement would not be out of frustration. But it would definitely not happen in the next 50 years, and leaving Malaysia for “greener pasture” is a defeatist solution. The “Rethinking Malaysia” calls for a reflection on the past and a peek into what the future holds in the next 50 years. Those wanting a easy way out by leaving should not be participating in such a forum in the first place.

Those young people present when the altercation with Paul Low was taking place, instead of listening and then speak up their mind, they bowed their heads in silence. Is this a good or bad omen for the future of Malaysia?.