Civil society groups want end to racism

Writer: Brenda Ch’ng  Published: Fri, 06 Jul 2012 PETALING JAYA: Thirty-four civil society groups nationwide yesterday called on the Malaysian government to ratify the International Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). ICERD is a United Nations convention formed to eliminate racial discrimination and promote the understanding of all races. “We want the government to move away from racial policies and make all races equal. There should no longer only be one dominant race in Malaysia,” said Pusat Komas board member Jerald Joseph at the forum. Joseph, who is also the chairman for the coalition of 34 organisations titled Working Group on National Ratification of ICERD, said the government must demonstrate its commitment to the 1Malaysia slogan.   “The government should keep to their word (1Malaysia) and ratify the convention by this year. We feel that it can be done, and it’s just up to political will.”  According to him,  175 nations had already ratified ICERD and Malaysia was among the few like Myanmar, North Korea and Angola which have not. The coalition feels it is crucial that Malaysia be part of ICERD because issues of race and religion are causing debates, controversy and tension among the people. Also present at the forum were about 50 representatives from civil societies and individuals who shared their experiences on racism. “I’m sad that the Orang Asli children who study at vernacular schools are being denied financial help from the government. This is pure racism,” claimed Orang Asli activist Naham Nasir. The 40-year-old from Pahang said his daughter, who studies in a Chinese school, is denied monetary assistance but his son, who is in an Islamic school, gets the subsidies for uniforms and school books. Meanwhile, taxi driver Mat Abdul Nasir (pic) is unhappy that many who work their fingers to the bone are still living in poverty. “We work more than eight hours but still don’t have enough to feed the family. I earn RM210 a day but I’ve to give RM163 to the taxi operators. I end up with so little,” he said. He hopes the government will treat everyone equally and “not take away their rights just because they are from the lower class and uneducated”. Joining him was Tenaganita representative Nisha Jayakrishnan, who wanted the government to treat foreign and domestic workers with respect and as equals. “There’s a lack of legal framework in Malaysia as the law doesn’t protect the migrant workers but discriminates them instead,” she said. Recently, Tenaganita rescued a 24-year-old Cambodian domestic worker who had been mistreated by her employees in the past year and stuck in a debt bondage. She wasn’t paid for six months, only fed stale biscuits and bread twice a day and was slapped and caned repeatedly for contacting her family over the phone. “Her passport was also withheld by the agent and she can’t leave. I hope the government will look into this more seriously and implement better laws to protect migrant workers,” she said. Among those present were Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia representative Norshila Shahar, Bar Council Human Rights Department representative Siti Kasim, Tenaganita executive director Irene Fernandez, Klang member of Parliament Charles Santiago, LLG Cultural Development Centre Bhd executive officer Ng Yap Hwa, Pusat Komas programme coordinator Lena Hendry and executive director Tan Jo Hann. Source : Selangor Times

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