“The country needs policies and implementations that are fair and just to all Malaysians,”
PETALING JAYA (Sept 21. 2008) : The government needs to think out of the box in making decisions for the people, instead of just behaving like “I know what is best for the rakyat”, say experts.
The cabinet’s recent decision to formulate a Race Relations Act (RRA) to strengthen inter-racial ties and promote integration may not be the best solution, according to some.
“No law can strengthen anything. Any law, by definition, is not a social force that can create or strengthen unity but it can prevent unity from being destroyed,” said Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Prof Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin.
He said the RRA is not only for ethnic but also economic, political and other aspects, adding that many European countries have the law.
“The law ensures that any form of discrimination in terms of racism and the like are prevented in the country,” Shamsul told theSun, adding that “that in a way puts the bad element at bay while the good remains.”
However, he said, the most important thing is not the law but “the government asking the people what they want”.
“It is about the people after all. It is so rushed. The Barisan Nasional (BN) government has to stop telling the people ‘I know what is best for you’,” Shamsul stressed, adding that it should respect the people.
He urged the government to conduct a referendum to get feedback from the rakyat about this law.
“Get the mandate from the people! The people should be consulted first in enacting this law because it is directly related to them,” said the professor of social anthropology, who is also founding director of UKM Institute of Ethnic Studies.
International Movement for a Just World (JUST) president Dr Chandra Muzaffar also opined that formulating laws are not enough to strengthen inter-racial ties.
“The country needs policies and implementations that are fair and just to all Malaysians,” he said.
“I don’t know how much law we can make. Laws on ethnic relations may only be able to play a punitive role and, at the same time, promote certain elements of good behaviour,” he said.
The act, which aims to strengthen race relations, promote integration, raise patriotic spirit and build a tolerant and harmonious society, is being drafted by a panel headed by the Home and the Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministries. “Policies are more important to look after the interests of everyone,” he added.
“It is not like law is the only solution (to promote race relations). We need policies that are just and fair to everyone. We also need just and fair implementation of the policies,” he said.
Chandra, who is well-versed in ethnic relations and civilisational dialogues, also said there should be good and trustworthy leaders at all levels to deal with the matter fairly and justly.
“Laws generally have their punitive roles and seek to punish those who exploit communal feelings and encourage people to play a good role in promoting race relations.
“The people must be educated about each other’s sensitivities, about our nation’s history and the contemporary situation to which we have evolved, through the schools, media and community organisations,” said Chandra, adding that “knowing each other’s sensitivities is extremely important”.