To call a spade, a spade

Some questioned why should Dong Zong be accorded preferential treatment


WHEN DAP secretary general Lim Guan Eng said last week that the Cabinet’s decision on the khat issue would not be accepted by everyone, perhaps he was anticipating the backlash from education groups like Dong Zong.

Dong Zong chairman Tan Tai Kim had announced that the group’s intention to start a petition against the introduction of khat in vernacular schools, a policy approved in 2012.

On Monday, Lim issued another statement saying that he would once again, bring up the matter to the Cabinet.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement that it is up to Dong Zong to accept or reject the decision, should give Lim an indication on the government’s stand over the matter.

“We have made a decision, if they don’t want to accept it, then don’t,” Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying when asked about Dong Zong’s petition.

The prime minister had also labelled Dong Zong as being racist as the Chinese education group had constantly rejected government’s proposals, including the Wawasan school where all three vernacular systems are housed under one roof to promote national unity.

Despite Dr Mahathir’s statement having mixed reactions based on online sentiments, most users believe that it is time for politicians to call a spade, a spade.

They questioned why should Dong Zong be accorded preferential treatment when the government in the past did not even entertain some race-based groups such as Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Malaysian Muslim Solidarity), known by its Malay acronym Isma, and Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Force).

In fact, there is an online petition with almost 50,000 signatories demanding the government to ban Dong Zong for its alleged Islamaphobic statements.

Some Internet users took to the cyber sphere to say that Dong Zong’s sentiment does not represent their view nor the Chinese community at large, like how Isma and Hindraf are not the voices of all Malays and Indians.

In a racially-charged political climate, certain quarters have questioned whether the current government is doing enough to protect the interests of certain groups, intentionally dismissing the fact that Pakatan Harapan (PH) is a multiracial coalition.

Some Malaysians have pointed out various recent events to legitimise their claims that PH is not protecting Malay/Chinese/Indian interests.

If we look at the situation in a positive light, amid all the noises and petty thoughts, PH could emerge as the winner if it sticks to its fundamentals of being a coalition that looks after the interest of all Malaysians.

Blogger and political consultant Firdaus Abdullah feels this is the time where the PH government, especially the Cabinet led by Dr Mahathir, is presented with an opportunity “to show Malaysians their worth as a new government, one that is free from the shackles of race & religion”.

Erasing years of twisted and deeprooted racial slurs and bigotry — largely propagated by politicians and racist groups — would be as hard as moving a mountain, however, it does not prevent sensible and level-minded Malaysians from confronting the issues which continue to haunt and divide our society.

Lawyer Syahredzan Johan said it succinctly in his Twitter posting: “There is a place under the Malaysian sun for all Malaysians. We must reject this language of exclusion, if we want to move forward and truly take our place in the world. We are stronger, together.”

Any government will not be able to please all its citizens. There are unpopular decisions to be made.

Perhaps for some first-time Cabinet ministers, these are the stark truth of governing a nation. It is easier to throw potshots from the other side of the fence.

But they must realise Malaysians are banking on them to do the right thing for all, and not a selected few. This bigotry must end if Malaysia wants to be the paradise for all — irrespective of race, religion, creed and colour.

Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.