In observance of the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2015, we, the civil society organizations of Malaysia call upon the Malaysian government and all political parties to abide by international treaties governing the elimination of racism and racial discrimination in all areas of public policy:
1. ELIMINATE RACISM & RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN MALAYSIA NOW!
Racism and racial discrimination present the most serious obstacle to the nation’s progress and peoples’ solidarity. Malaysians are still divided into “Bumiputeras” and “non-Bumiputeras”. Minorities continue to be derided as “immigrants” by the ruling party and far-right Malay supremacist groups in order to justify the racial discriminatory policies in favour of “Bumiputeras”. This Malay-centric ideology (“Ketuanan Melayu”) has become infused with extreme Islamic populism.
Racism has been thoroughly institutionalised in state institutions such as the civil and armed services and even racist indoctrination in state institutions has been brought to light. The main victims of racism and racial discrimination in Malaysia are the non-Bumiputera working class especially the ethnic Indians, the indigenous peoples of East and West Malaysia and migrant workers. Migrant workers are treated as mere commodities or even vermin that have to be periodically “flushed out” when it suits the state.
2. OUTLAW RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION & HATE CRIMES
With the rise of the far-right, racism and hate crimes have become more prevalent. “Hate crimes” are criminal acts committed as intimidation, threats, property damage, assault, murder or such other criminal offence. Hate crimes violate the principle of equality between people and deny their right to achieve full human dignity and to realize their full potential. Thus, “Incitement to racial hatred” needs to be made a criminal offence. This includes attempts to deliberately provoke hatred against a racial group; distributing racist material to the public; making inflammatory public speeches; creating racist websites on the internet; inciting inflammatory rumours about an individual or ethnic group, in order to spread racial discontent.
3. ENACT AN EQUALITY ACT AND ESTABLISH AN EQUALITY & HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
In Malaysia, an Equality Act and an Equality & Human Rights Commission are needed to specifically deal with hate crimes and incitement to racial hatred. We already have a National Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) which can extend its jurisdiction to incorporate an Equality Commission for after all, equality is an intrinsic part of our human rights. Its work would be to encourage greater integration and better ethnic relations and to use legal powers to help eradicate racial discrimination and harassment. Thus, its ambit would cover racist stereotyping in text books and the press; racial discrimination in the public sphere, employment, education, social services, advertisements.
Such an independent commission would be empowered to issue codes of practice and be invested with powers to conduct formal investigations and to serve notices to furnish information or documents in order to enforce the law.
4. RATIFY THE INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
For an administration to convince Malaysians that it is genuinely keen to institute reforms for better ethnic relations and equality, our country should immediately initiate moves to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR).
5. AFFIRMATIVE ACTION BASED ON NEED, SECTOR OR CLASS NOT RACE
The NEP has been implemented for more than 40 years; way beyond its expiry date of 1990 and Bumiputeras already control the commanding heights of the Malaysian economy. While the size of the Malay middle class has grown, the NEP has also led to widening intra-ethnic inequality especially among the Malays.
The NEP’s “Bumiputera trusteeship” and other projects have benefited the new crony capitalists of UMNO as well as their non-Malay capitalist partners. Consequently, the civil rights of ethnic minorities continue to be denied while the relations of class exploitation are obscured by portraying poverty and inequality as a product of unequal distribution between the “races”.
6. UNITY BASED ON GREATER DEMOCRACY
The road toward uniting the Malaysian peoples is through a concerted effort for greater democracy not only in the political realm but also in economic, educational, social and cultural policies. Since the seventies and the attempt by the state to impose a National Cultural Policy, there have been many episodes involving national oppression. The state’s ideological view of “national unity” through one language and one culture and the dissolution of Chinese and Tamil schools are intended to fuel Malay chauvinism. The basis of unity rests fundamentally on the recognition of the equality of all nationalities.
In the process of the struggle for greater (genuine) democracy, Malaysians will, without doubt, comes into contact with those of the other cultures as the recent Bersih rallies have shown. There can also be ample opportunities for integration of students from different language streams if they share common facilities such as sports fields, libraries, performance arenas, IT centres, canteens, gymnasiums and participate in common competitions such as athletics, games, debates, arts and theatre, etc. The basis for unity among the people has also to embody a commitment to democracy and policies that will improve the living standards of the workers and farmers and at the same time unite them. These components involve the lifting of restrictions on legitimate political organisation and activity, as well as the encouragement of social and political institutions that ensure genuine popular control.
The task for all Malaysians is to build a solidarity movement for democracy, fully cognizant of the need for improving the livelihood of the masses and building a society that is progressive, inclusive and truly equal.
Signatories of this joint statement:
2.Civil Rights Committee of the KLSCAH
4.Human Rights Foundation of Malaysia
5.IDEAL (Institute for Development of Alternative Living)
6.Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor dan Kuala Lumpur (PRIHATIN)
7.JIHAD for JUSTICE
8.LLG Cultural Development Centre
9.Malaysian Youth and Students’ Democratic Movement (DEMA)
10.National Indian Rights Action Team (NIAT)
11.One Race – Human Race
12.Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
15.Sahabat Rakyat Malaysia
16.Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
17.Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
18.Tamil Education Foundation
20.United Borneo Front
21.Vivekananda Youth Movement
22.WE ARE MALAYSIANS