Home News Featured News Very dangerous, who is really stroking a rousing racial fire in Malaysia?

Very dangerous, who is really stroking a rousing racial fire in Malaysia?

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MALAYSIA risks facing more serious clashes, come December, as pro-Malay sentiments that will distract Putrajaya from implementing difficult but necessary reforms.

The latest red-hot racial controversy was stroked by a proposed plan to sign the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) which involves amending the Federal Constitution.

Now in back-tracking its earlier stand to sign, the new Pakatan government, under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, says it will be almost impossible to implement international convention on racial discrimination.

The racial threats are dead serious: UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on November 17 said that the Malay-Muslim community would “run amok” to protest the Pakatan Harapan government’s pledge to ratify ICERD. He warned UMNO and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) had planned a demonstration on Dec 8 in Kuala Lumpur to protest against ratifying the international treaty.

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Tun Mahathir can feel the grassroots pressure.

He is pragmatic, too, that to push ICERD his party would need a two-thirds majority from Parliament. Given the current number of Members of Parliament from the government as well reaction from both the opposition and government members over the matter, it will not go through.

NATIONAL HARMONY

Senior officials of Pakatan Harapan component parties such as (Tun Mahathir’s son) Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir and even 25-year-old Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman were reportedly against ICERD if constitutional rights and national harmony were affected.

But Tun Mahathir is reasonably cool over the matter. He assured the public that no chaos would erupt, unless instigated by the Umno president. He says: “Unless Zahid stirs up trouble, there will be no riot over ICERD.”

The veteran 93-year-old Prime Minister is aware that Malaysian politics have long been race-based and pointed out that Malay incomes have increased rapidly following pro-Bumiputera policies implemented after the 1969 race riots that saw killings and Chinese shops burned.

But in today’s context, he reiterates that ICERD is sensitive to the Malays.

He notes: “We can discuss about the matter because we are not rejecting the views of the people. In my speech at the United Nations (general assembly in September), I mentioned about the complexity of ICERD but we didn’t commit about implementing it, whether fully or partially.”

THE TREATY

Malaysia is among a handful of countries that have neither signed nor ratified the treaty. The treaty provides individuals worldwide with a mechanism for complaints over issues of racial discrimination, among others, and is enforceable against member states.

The rising number of critics, stroked by UMNO and PAS, say ratifying ICERD would undermine the special position of the Malays, including provisions to allow quotas in public institutions.
Even Finance Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng responded to the allegations by insisting that the party had never raised the issue.

He said the allegations were aimed at brewing hatred. He says: “I think everyone knows that the issue (surrounding ICERD) was not raised by DAP. Who are the ones who raised it? It wasn’t us.

“They are trying to flare up racial sentiments, we have never raised this issue, and certain quarters are trying to link DAP (to this issue) for their own political reasons.”

Even the appraising Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim said that he believes all Malaysians have a duty to uphold the constitution. Responding to a question by a Twitter user who asked for his take on the government’s stance on ICERD, he said: “I personally believe that it is the responsibility of every Malaysian to uphold the constitution, be it the State Constitution or the Federal Constitution.

“To be liberal in terms of progress and innovation is good. But we should not forget our tradition, heritage and history.”

But the Prime Minister’s media adviser Datuk A. Kadir Jasin says underhand tactics by Opposition parties to exploit racial and religious issues to win support will bring limited results. He believes Malaysians of all races had proven that they were united in rejecting such attempts.

“If you go by the May 9 results, the race and religious card are important but I don’t think they have the same kind of weightage as in past,” he says. “I think Malaysians of all races and religions voiced out their opposition to this.”

To emphasise Malaysian solidarity, he said that Malaysians of all races went out to Istana Negara after the general election to ensure that the hard-won democracy was not hijacked.

“I think we have to give a lot of credit to all of us in Malaysia,” he said.

For the moment, it’s prudent to listen to the ground: The rousing racial controversy stroked by a proposed plan to sign ICERD must be smartly diffused.

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