What sounds good may not be good !

This is the latest write up in my column in Malaysian Insider posted yesterday afternoon. It is also availbale in Malaysia Today at this link.

Malaysian Insider

Is the Race Relations Act the solution?

SEPT 26 — A Race Relations Act (RRA) sounds good. But what sounds good may not be good. What sounds good may even be bad or redundant. In the case of the proposed RRA, I think it is a waste of time.

We already have a Sedition Act. During 1987 when race relations were at a low ebb, the Internal Security Act was used in Ops Lalang to arrest many people. I remember the then PM issued a stern warning that no one should question the special rights of the indigenous people, who include our Malay brothers, and no one should question the right to citizenship of the non-indigenous people, the Indians and the Chinese.

I remember, and correct me if I am wrong, that there was some sort of understanding that in return for not questioning the special rights of the indigenous people, the non-indigenous people would not be called “pendatang”.

Recently, we had a politician from a dominant party uttering this word and it resulted in a big hoo-ha in the country, raising tensions and temperatures. Police reports were made, state-level political ties were suspended, a photograph was torn but the Sedition Act was not used.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has spoken about “selective prosecution”. This case clearly gives the perception that there is indeed selective prosecution and perhaps “selective persecution” as well. The latter was perceived because of the use of the ISA to detain a newspaper reporter who was clearly innocent, an MP who did not say or do anything to threaten internal security and a prominent blogger whose fault was only to write reports that may or may not be true but which would not have been constituted as “threatening internal security”.

So, there is really no point in having an extra law, the proposed RRA, if there is selective prosecution as well as selective persecution. It would only give Big Brother an extra means to selectively arrest or silence certain groups, including opposition politicians and those in civil society fighting for righteousness and good governance.

It may be even used against the MCA, MIC or Gerakan, but certain “warlords” will never be touched.

Relations between people can only be slowly fostered in an environment that is free of bias. If there is perceived favouritism and unequal treatment, animosity is going to result and genuine relations cannot be established. Relationships can only be built if everyone is willing to give and take. They cannot be built on the basis of “I take almost everything and you have to fend for yourself”.

In a marriage, you cannot have one spouse taking everything and the other spouse feeling dissatisfied. This one-sided relationship can never last, no matter how many functions you organise for them, or how many outings you arrange. It has to be based on equality, mutual respect and, as I earlier mentioned, a “give and take” spirit.

Why harp on race relations when the parties in the Barisan Nasional are almost all race-based? If they genuinely want to see a united Malaysia, they should discard their race-based ideology and become one big multiracial party.

Leaders are supposed to lead by example. But now we have leaders who are uttering “race” and stressing “race” day in and day out. If leaders are harping on race, do you think people would suddenly cease talking about race and huddle together?

What we need to do to foster better race relations is very simple. Do away with the perceived unequal treatment. Do away with the race column in every form that we need to fill.

If the poor need to be given special help, by all means do so, but it must be on a basis of “need”. Only then would each community feel that it is not being left out, because the poor in each community would be given special care, just like we give special care to our handicapped brothers and sisters.

Logic tells us that the rich need less help; so let them compete on their own, on a level-playing field, so that they can be toughened up to face external competitors. Only through this can Malaysia reinvent itself, and play catch-up with those nations that were once, not too long ago, behind us — countries like Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kenny Gan
    Sep 27, 2008 @ 10:18:41

    What Ahmad Ismail said is already an offense under the Sedition Act yet no action was taken against him. What’s the point of yet another Act if there is no will to enforce fairly.

    The non-Malays are usually slammed for questioning Malay rights but there are no non-Malays who dare to question Malay rights publicly. So having nothing to instigate, the racists like Ahmad will grab on anything as questioning Malay rights. Even asking for an apology for hurtful racial statements made is “questioning Malay rights”.


  2. veonszu
    Sep 27, 2008 @ 11:46:49

    Dr.Hsu, you are absolutely right!

    More laws, rules & regulations only mean more less logics, freedom and common sense.

    In this case, Less is More. Stop this nonsensical proposal, as the law is as good as the enforcer!


  3. tonyboneka
    Sep 28, 2008 @ 07:12:56

    BN winning formula is racial politics; BN is the biggest player in shaping polarization of Malaysian society.


  4. for nikki
    Sep 28, 2008 @ 08:01:56

    Dear Dr Hsu,

    In my opinion, as long as this “us versus them” kind of attitude prevails in our country we will never progress to the level of harmony we are capable of. Under the present circumstances, unity is just a dream. At least in the US , Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I have a dream” sentiments are slowly but surely going to be realised. Here we are just stuck in motion. Lee Kuan Yew did mentioned that if the Indians and Chinese are treated as citizens, Malaysia will do better than Spore. Singapore is truly a standing indictment of what Malaysia could have been if good, fair and just policies had been implemented right from the start.

    Now we ask our young to live under ths same roof, mingle and get to know each other better for 3 months while the adults are playing their own games to further divide the society. What a shame….sad isn’t it?

    I wish that all the insecurities we harbour in our hearts and psyche will be gone or at least reduced to a bare minimum. Hopefully a realisation happen in each of us that we are all in the same boat, united we stand , divided we fall: that the colour of our skin is not important compared to the quality of our mind. When we learn and adapt, compete on equal footing and excel based on diligence and hard work, then no one can tell us that we didn’t deserve our success. didn’t earn our dues and we can then stand tall and be respected….anywhere in the world. I know… I am just a dreamer but then I think I am not the only one.


  5. daffodils
    Sep 28, 2008 @ 14:48:54

    What’s the point of having the RRA when you have institutionalised discriminatory policies that cannot be questioned? Would the RRA be used to punish those who raise discriminatory policies?

    Exactly like the statements made by Mr Lee Kuan Yew about the marginalisation of minorities being a stumbling block towards a more progressive Malaysia.

    Cant we just identify ourselves as just Bangsa Malaysia? Yes do away with the race column in every form that we need to fill.

    Malaysian should just carry an identity as Malaysian(Bangsa Malaysia), and drop the Malay, Chinese, Indian race from our identity. We retain the names to reflect the persons origin – because Malays will use Islamic names, Chinese will use mixed Chinese and Christian names, and the same for Indians. Our identity remain in place and we still practise our culture.


  6. A true Malaysian
    Sep 29, 2008 @ 15:14:17

    I found it strange to have rights of indigenous and non-indigenous Malaysian being spelled out in the Constitution in the first place.

    I can understand if natives rights in Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak to be spelled out in the Constitution, but not to most of us ‘Pendatang’ who are the majority in this country. Countries like New Zealands and Australia have special rights being protected in their respective Constitutions.

    So long as these rights are spelled out in our Constitution, the polarization of Malaysian will still be there. No amount of Acts like RRA will bring us closure. It will only aggravate the polarization.

    I would prefer to have Multiracial Act which prevent any political party to be formed on race based and identification of race in ICs and whatever forms.

    RRA sound very racist to me.


  7. tonyboneka
    Oct 02, 2008 @ 15:27:51

    You are right. Quick and dirty “fix” will not cure the root. If a problem persists half of a century, there must be something wrong to the core.

    Don’t be led by events, think about the structure.


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