Putrajaya urged to campaign against race politics

Activists say race relations in Malaysia are not as bad as some people might think. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Social and political activist Haris Ibrahim has urged the government to go on a media campaign to counter the ploys of those playing up racial and religious issues for political ends.

Haris, a founder of the Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia movement, told FMT he believed problems of race relations in the country were caused primarily by politicians who “know how to go down to the ground to stir up anger” and were not the result of animosity between people of different races.

Haris Ibrahim.

He pointed his finger at unnamed politicians in Umno and PAS, accusing them of trying to instil in the Malays a fear of losing their cultural identity.

He said the government should make use of the mainstream media to reach out to the Malays so that they won’t be swayed by the rhetoric of those politicians.

Haris claimed that racial hatred in Malaysia was not as severe as in some western countries.

“When I was in England,” he said, “I was told not to go out on Saturday nights. The Pakistanis were often victimised by the skinheads, who would often get drunk and beat up anyone who looked like a Pakistani.

“That is real racism. We don’t have that here. What we have here is racism that has been created by desperate politicians.”

He spoke of rural Malays who he said would not be preoccupied with questions of “special rights” or “Malay supremacy” under normal circumstances.

“But when they read headlines such as ‘Hak Melayu dicabar oleh pendatang asing Cina’ and hear politicians telling them this will be taken away and that will be taken away and your children cannot go to university, they get angry.”

He noted that the Federal Constitution mentions “special position” and not “special rights”.

“But Umno and PAS use this as ammunition because they are almost bankrupt,” he said.

“What Pakatan Harapan needs to do is to use the media to tell the Malays that race politics is the reason they are poor.”

He suggested that the government implement an affirmative action programme to help everyone regardless of race. “At the end of the day, the majority who will benefit will be the Malays anyway.”

Anas Zubedy, another social activist, said Umno members who were playing up racial and religious issues were probably desperate to remain politically relevant.

He said they were wrong in saying that the Malays would lose the constitutional guarantee of their special position if Malaysia were to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

“There is no way the ICERD can do that,” he said.

He also said race relations in Malaysia were not as bad as some people might think. “If you ask me, we’ve been doing well.”

He voiced a belief that most Malays would no longer blindly support a single leader.

He also dismissed fears of a repeat of the events of May 13, 1969, noting that even then, millions of Malaysians stood together to protect each other.

“The rabble rousers do not represent the masses,” he said. “The people will not join them. I’m not worried about our falling into some big time racial turmoil.”