The old politics of race and religion should no longer be an obstacle in our long and winding journey to build a new Malaysia, where equality, justice and fairness are the new normal, writes Mustafa K Anuar.
In her speech at the 42nd annual general meeting on 25 November 2018, Aliran president Prema Devaraj urged members to get involved in building the new Malaysia.
She also reminded them that this may take time, patience and constructive effort.
To achieve this, she added, human rights, good governance, inclusivity and sustainable development have to be upheld.
She stressed that the dignity and rights of all people must be at the forefront of all endeavours so that people will be prioritised over economic and political profits.
That is why in the wake of the opposition to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms or Racial Discrimination (ICERD), especially by segments of the Malay-Muslim community, Aliran urged the government to first tackle the insecurities and real needs of the bottom 40% of the population, many of whom are Malay.
In this way, not only would needy Malays deserve to get state assistance, but other deserving non-Malays would also be helped. This would go a long way towards redressing social inequalities in the country.
The fear of the implications of ICERD ratification is genuine among certain segments of the Malay community. But the deliberate fabrication of a siege mentality for the consumption of Malays by certain unscrupulous quarters with vested interests might have pushed up the political temperature a notch or two. In short, there appears to be a nefarious agenda to stir ethnic sentiments.
Plans and policies must be put in place to provide affirmative action for those who really need assistance, irrespective of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds.
In the long run, the hope is that the implementation of such policies will show many Malaysians that discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion would not only contravene human rights, but also be detrimental to the wellbeing of the country as a whole. This is because the diversity that we have – an asset to the country – would be wasted in our quest to become a developed and progressive nation.
The diversity in our society should not divide and disunite us. Instead, it should serve as a catalyst for Malaysians to build on this strength and foster mutual understanding and respect for one another. Inclusivity must be promoted so that everyone will have a stake in this beloved country and a sense of belonging.
The personal experience of guest writer GK Ganesan is living testimony to how assistance to someone in need by committed individuals who were blind to skin colour went a long way towards providing a much better future for a little boy born into a poor family.
The politics of race and religion has been peddled by some unscrupulous politicians and their cohorts – and they have also profited from it. This old politics should no longer be an obstacle in our long and winding journey to build a new Malaysia, where equality, justice and fairness are the new normal – and this is consonant with the primary objective of the ICERD.
Divisive policies in, say, government schools should be opposed, and alternatives offered instead. It is here that Aliran could engage the state in a constructive way.
At the same time, Aliran should also be critical of the state if the latter implements policies that are harmful to the collective interest of ordinary people, particularly in development policies and projects.
Certainly, there is a lot to do, especially for Aliran members, in the post-2018 general election era.
Mustafa K Anuar
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
29 November 2018