Stop playing on racial anxieties!

by Jeyakumar Devaraj

The PSM is both disappointed and alarmed that the Pakatan Harapan government is itself stirring up inter-ethnic tensions. The people voted you in with the expectation you would build a just and more harmonious society. By and large Malaysian are a tolerant people and most people of all races would like to build inter-ethnic understanding and harmony for we all realize we need to work together to guarantee a better future for our children.

But you, Pakatan Harapan, seem to be playing on racial anxieties lately. Barely two weeks ago had the Education Minister announced the implementation of Khat at Primary Four level in all schools? PSM agrees that there is a need for the different ethnic groups in Malaysia to learn about and appreciate each other’s cultures. That would help to build harmony among the different ethnic groups. But this sudden unilateral decision to introduce Khat without prior consultation is having the opposite effect – of deepening the divisions between the ethnic groups.

Doesn’t Dr. Mazlee know that many non-Malay parents are anxious that there is a tendency to Islamize   non Malay children attending public schools? Taken against this backdrop, the Khat proposal just heightens suspicions among some that the government is trying to “Islamize” society even further.

Then as if to up the ante, the Selangor Government attempted to introduce a Bill allowing the conversion of children unilaterally by one of the parents. Though this problem has only affected about half a dozen couples in the past 10 years, it is an issue that has been widely publicized and is an emotive one.

Come on Pakatan Harapan !  You should know our society in the 60 years of racial politicking has created suspicions and fears in all the ethnic groups that their legitimate interests – economic, cultural and religious – might be compromised. So why these unnecessary initiatives? What is going on Pakatan? Some people speculate that this stirring of ethnic issues is being done on purpose to weaken certain coalition partners, and/or to distract attention from issues involving certain leaders. Pakatan too has come into power with the promise of enhancing our racial integration and equality, so why betray your constituents?

PSM would like to advise the Presidential Council of the PH leaders to set up a high level committee to vet all new policies and initiatives touching on language, religion and education before permitting the Ministers concerned to announce these.

At the same time the PSM appeals to all the citizens groups who are mobilizing to protest these two initiatives to be judicious in their use of words and slogans to oppose them. You certainly have the right to gather and protest the ill-conceived decisions. But these ill-conceived decisions do not give anyone the license to lash out indiscriminately at any religion or any ethnic group.

Inter-ethnic understanding and harmony is a fragile flower that we all need to nurture. And it is crucial to our efforts to build a more just society for all of us. Let us not allow dirty politicking within the PH derail our efforts to build a better and more harmonious Malaysia.

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Jeyakumar Devaraj is the Chaiperson of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM).

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