Racial discrimination continues in ‘New Malaysia’, says report

Representatives from United Nations, Suhakam, Pusat Komas and others with Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah at the launch of the Malaysia Racial Discrimination Report 2018.

KUALA LUMPUR: The latest annual report on racial discrimination by rights group Pusat Komas says political parties from both sides of the divide continued to resort to racial politics last year, with a spike in racially charged public statements during the ICERD controversy in late 2018.

But the report said even though Malaysians voted against Barisan Nasional in the May 9 polls in what was largely seen as a rejection of racial politics, incidents of racial discrimination continued in the “New Malaysia”.

The 46-page report, which gathers incidents of racial discrimination from media reports as well as through a mobile app called “Report Racism”, said there were more cases of discrimination in the education sector, as well as the property and job markets in 2018.

“These cases provide clear examples of violations of basic rights which are enshrined in the Federal Constitution and are based on the definition of racial discrimination,” it said.

The report studies racist tendencies by dividing them into six categories including race-based party politics, groups resorting to provocative racial sentiments, racism in the education sector, racism in social media and xenophobia.

But not everything in the report is negative. It said prominent individuals including politicians had made efforts to counter racist actions.

“Such efforts are highly lauded as these positive voices are needed in efforts to counter the issue of racial discrimination in Malaysia,” it said.

It listed 36 comments and statements made by public figures as well as ordinary citizens promoting unity and racial harmony, and criticising those attacking communities.

The report also listed several race-themed controversies, including some schools with separate “Malay canteens” for students, job advertisements with racial preferences, and landlords preferring a certain race as tenants.

The report said social media showed that racism is deep-seated among ordinary Malaysians.

“What is worse, ordinary Malaysians resorted to using social media in the guise of anonymity to make racially discriminatory statements,” it said.

The report urged the Pakatan Harapan government to reconsider its decision not to ratify ICERD, or the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

“The decision not to sign and ratify the ICERD has provided an indication that the government of Malaysia condones racial discrimination.”

It said the formal education system as well as public information campaigns should “instil consciousness and eradicate racism and discrimination at all levels of the Malaysian society, from ministers, MPs and mayors to civil servants and enforcement agencies”.

“The government must uphold, not renege on its promises in its manifesto,” it said, adding that this includes eliminating all forms of intolerance and hate speech on beliefs.