PETALING JAYA, Feb 24 — The proposal to remove the race column in all paperwork in the country has been received positively.
The Malay Mail yesterday spoke to people on the street and with one voice, they agreed with the suggestion made by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup after the National Unity Consultative Council’s meeting.
Engineer Shawn Sreedharan, 25, who is a mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian, said he had to ask his father whenever he had to fill in his race in a form.
“My father tells me to choose whichever I want but what defines my race is that I am a product of my father, so I would like to follow my father’s bloodline.
“Socially, I can be seen as Malay or Chinese but both works for me as ticking a box on a piece of paper does not define who I am.”
Arica Audra de Souza, 20, who is a mix of Eurasian, Portuguese and Chinese, said Malaysians were united and should not be segregated by race.
“What is the point of the 1Malaysia initiative? I believe all of us should be treated equally.”
De Souza said that Malaysia’s uniqueness was based on the nation’s racial diversity.
K. Vijjay, 26, a barista from Kepong, said the ‘race’ column was only to serve a political agenda and had nothing to do with the people.
“They want to know the demographics of an area and that is why we are all required to fill in the ‘race’ column.”
Historian Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim said the government made a mistake in defining race and ethnicity before Malaysia was formed.
“In this country, the word ‘bangsa’ (race) has been used before independence in 1957.”
Khoo explained that after Malaya gained independence and became a member of the United Nations, the organisation was defined as ‘Persatuan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu’ in Bahasa Malaysia where ‘bangsa’ meant nation.
Khoo said instead of race, the government should have used the word ethnicity or ‘kaum’ in Bahasa Malaysia.
“Both adults and children need to be taught the difference between race and ethnicity.”
In full support of Kurup’s suggestion was also Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, who is a trustee of the 1Malaysia Foundation.
Lee explained the racial indication in forms does not only apply in government sectors but in private sectors such as banks.
“Why is there a need to fill in the ‘race’ column when one wants to apply for a loan?”
Lee believes that the time has come to promote the Malaysian identity.
“It all begins in school because there are forms in school that requires you to indicate your race. This is all running concurrently with the 1Malaysia campaign but that is not logical. We feel what we are advocating now will bring us towards a more united nation.”