Confronting prejudices and questionable practices

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Artist's impression of a proposed workers village in Bukit Minyak - Graphic: Westlite

Ngu Ik Tien reviews recent writings about common prejudice towards migrant workers, suspicious new voters and affirmation action policies.

This week Mary Chin relected on a sense of distrust among local people towards migrant workers. She cautioned that such a perception may eventually lead to the systematic exclusion of the latter.

In contrast, the author noticed the hospitality of local people towards tourists and foreign professionals, prompting her to question the common prejudice against the working-class migrant workers: “Yet, when it comes to immigrating workers, we want the sweat and the blood but not the person.”

Drawing from her travelling experiences and migrant heritage, she persuasively suggested that Malaysians should empathise with migrant workers. After all, migration is our common heritage.

Recently, the Electoral Commission of Malaysia has again been accused of questionable practices by opposition parties and civil society organisations. Dozens of complaints have been reported in online news portals about the suspicious changes in the recently released electoral rolls. Most of the constituencies involved are the Barisan Nasional’s marginal seats.

This week, Bersih 2.0, the electoral watchdog of Malaysia, provided an account of suspicious new voters in two constituencies in Malacca, and the report indicated similar attempts were made in other states.

Malaysia’s race-based affirmative action policies have recently been the topic of discussion in the foreign media. Some Islamist leaders from Indonesia have openly expressed their dissatisfaction with the amount of wealth held by the ethnic Chinese of Indonesia and claimed they are mulling an economic plan like Malaysia’s New Economic Policy, introduced in 1971. They praised the plan for having effectively redistributed national wealth equitably among the indigenous people and the Chinese.

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But the Economist has cast doubts on the race-based affirmative action policies which they believe has failed many poor Malaysians. In the midst of this, our Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin made a statement about these policies that lauded by Pusat Komas (“There is a time and place for affirmative action”).

On 20 May 2017, Aliran screened a documentary, Behemoth, which exposed the ugly side of China’s rapid economic growth. The film compelled viewers to think about the environmental cost and labour welfare in the industrialisation process. A post-screening discussion was led by a young member of Aliran.

These film screenings are held monthly to provide a platform for viewers to increase their awareness of environmental, political and socio-cultural issues and to engage in healthy discussion and debate.

Finally, you might want to read an article by a promising young writer who attended Aliran’s Young Writers Workshop last weekend. Dev Arul Jayakumar highlights the importance of awareness and early detection in helping children with dyslexia.

In solidarity

Ngu Ik Tien
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
23 May 2017

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