Universiti Sarawak Malaysia Associate Professor Andrew Aeria notes that seats in Sarawak are divided into different racial and religious categories.
KUALA LUMPUR: Racism exists in Malaysia because race is part of the political system in the country, an academician said.
“It’s not only the ruling government that plays this game of race and religion.
“The Opposition parties, including DAP, also play the race and religious game,” Universiti Sarawak Malaysia Associate Professor Andrew Aeria said at the launch of the “Malaysia Racial Discrimination Report 2015” by Pusat Komas.
Pusat Komas is a human rights communications centre set up to empower the indigenous people, urban poor, workers and urban society organisations.
Aeria went on to cite Sarawak and how the parliamentary seats in the East Malaysian state were based on the ethnicity of the voters.
Sarawak state seats, Aeria noted, were classified by the Election Commission as either Muslim Bumiputera seats, non-Muslim Bumiputera seats, Chinese seats and mixed seats.
“The question is, why do we need to outline the seats according to ethnicity and religion? This is a major question.
“Let’s work towards closing all political parties and associations based on race and religion.
“This is my view as somebody from the ‘lain-lain’ category. Focus on real issues that affect people.”
On a related note, Aeria said to combat racist perceptions, the media needed to stop focusing on matters only in the capital as this meant other pertinent issues affecting other communities were not highlighted.
People in Kuala Lumpur, he claimed, only think that Malaysia is KL, stressing that this was perpetuated by the media’s “love” to look at what was just happening in the capital, with no attention given to what was happening “out there”.
“Part of the problem is that you miss what’s happening to minority groups like the Penans in Sarawak.”
The Penans, he stressed, were marginalised, adding that not only were they poor and isolated but thousands of them did not have identity cards or birth certificates.
“The question is: is this a deliberate policy to dispossess a people of their lands, or is it just plain incompetence where government officers won’t go too far to take a picture and register these people?
“The community in Sabah and Sarawak is much more multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious. Certainly much more respectful. However, less racism does not mean no racism. That’s important.”