Official discrimination and private preferences

When the government is incapable of doing something tangible or meaningful, it will indulge in gimmicks. This is how I view the latest attempt to punish landlords for practising “discrimination” when renting out properties. Similarly, for years, we have been hammering employers for being selective and discriminative when recruiting or promoting their employees.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am all for a more harmonious and united nation where people can live happily without worrying too much over race and religion.

But how did we become so separate and distinct in the first place? Let me guess, it must be the vernacular schools that caused disunity. Today, the distinction must be due to landlords who are unwilling to rent their properties to those from another race or religion. Just watch, I think the government will soon find another reason. Will it eventually regulate how many friends of other races or religions I should have?

I think the problem is we can’t distinguish official discrimination from private/social preferences. We can’t see the hypocrisy of practising official discrimination to the hilt and then directing people to be colour- and religion-blind.

Whether we like it or not, official discrimination will set the tone of the nation. Just look around and see the multifaceted discriminations perpetrated and perpetuated from the “Old Malaysia” to the “New Malaysia”. Of course, we know the familiar argument – official discrimination is a necessary evil which is supposed to equalise an unequal society.

In case we have not noticed, over the years, official discrimination has evolved into a fine art. It is state-sanctioned and it is done openly, arrogantly, defiantly and unapologetically. Worse still, it is done without clear boundaries.

The US also has affirmative action programmes which are usually properly and clearly defined. They will not go beyond the official boundaries. Anyone caught practising discrimination could be severely punished and even dismissed.

I would prefer that the Malaysian government take care of its rampant official discrimination before poking its nose into others. I would prefer that the government take disciplinary action against officials who openly utter racial slurs rather than just transferring them to another position.

Private individuals and private enterprises must take care of their own survival. They can’t be asked to follow non-discriminative policies when the government itself is blatantly doing the opposite.

Citizens should be allowed to do what they are comfortable with, so long as they have not deliberately harmed or sabotaged others. For example, I should be allowed to rent my properties to whoever I want. However, if someone comes along and threatens me, or insists that I rent my properties only to those from a certain racial group, then the government must take action.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.