Malaysia can be the teacher to the world on how to preserve unity and harmony in a multifaith, multicultural country
By P PREM KUMAR / Pic By BERNAMA
US President John F Kennedy once said: “So, let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”
The late US president made the speech at the American University Commencement Address on June 10, 1963, in Washington, DC. Five months later, he was assassinated in Dallas.
His speech came when the country was marred by rising racism and hatred towards minorities. At that time, American whites had all the privileges and rights, while other races were ignored.
Is the situation in Malaysia similar to the US of the 1960s? As an Indian, a working professional and a third generation born in this country — I say No!
My maternal grandfather was part of the Malaysian army who fought for the country’s independence, while my paternal grandfather served and worked to build the country’s railways.
Throughout their lives, they believed in one principle — to climb the ladder of life, one must compete to win.
It was the competition to seek a better life that helped to shape and develop this country to what it is today. The Malays, Chinese and Indians competed in their respective fields to find a footing in this country.
There was no convention from the United Nations (UN), or any other institutions that advocate harmony and wealth sharing.
In retrospect, Malaysia can be the teacher to the world on how to preserve unity and harmony in a multifaith, multicultural country.
The Pakatan Harapan government has just been given the task to govern the country for the next 54 months. It successfully tabled the country’s 11th Malaysia Plan mid-term review and Budget 2019.
But hurdles come thick and fast. Then come the proposed ratification of the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
A third-generation human rights instrument, ICERD commits its members to the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of understanding among all races. Controversially, the convention also requires the signatories to outlaw hate speech and criminalise membership in racist organisations.
The convention was adopted and opened for signature by the UN General Assembly on Dec 21, 1965, and enforced on Jan 4, 1969. As of January 2018, there were 88 signatories to the convention.
The issue has since been a bone of contention. Social media platforms are flooded with racial slurs and hate speeches. Certain segments of the society are claiming that it will jeopardise Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, which grants the Malays and Bumiputeras of special privileges.
Ministers and political leaders who are supporting the ratification are not spared from harsh criticism from netizens and the general public.
As a Malaysian, I don’t see the need for ICERD. Malaysia is a unique nation. It has long practised what is preached under the convention despite without any formal ratification.
Let us not forego the unity and harmony that past generations have held, sowed, practised and instilled just because of a UN convention.
I’m sure many of us are above our emotions and self-centred beliefs. We must stand up to racism and bigotry. Let’s not tarnish another brother or sister’s religion to demonstrate our opposition to ICERD.
We must stop the discussions on ICERD as it will only fuel religious hatred and bigotry. As of now, there are already certain segments of the society taking advantage of the situation to earn some political brownie points.
Let’s be remembered by the wisdom of the country’s father of independence Tunku Abdul Rahman.
“We are all Malaysians. This is the bond that unites us. Let us always remember that unity is our fundamental strength as a people and as a nation.”
I’m a Malaysian Indian and I say No! to ICERD!