Najib touts national integration, not assimilation as Malaysian recipe for racial unity

Datuk Seri Najib Razak speaks at Gerakan’s 43rd National Delegates Conference in Setia City Convention Centre, Shah Alam, October 19, 2014. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Datuk Seri Najib Razak speaks at Gerakan’s 43rd National Delegates Conference in Setia City Convention Centre, Shah Alam, October 19, 2014. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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SETIA ALAM, Oct 19 — Malaysia celebrates its diversity through national integration and not assimilation, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today, noting that every ethnic group in the country is given the right to learn their own language and pray in their own religion.

The prime minister said that Malaysia’s national values are based on the belief that the existence of different racial and religious cultures here is an “asset” to the nation.

“Our forefathers, as mentioned by Datuk Mah, when they drafted the Federal Constitution... it is based on a grand political compromise, which we believe in national integration and not national assimilation,” Najib said in his speech at Gerakan’s 43rd National Delegates Conference, referring to comments made earlier by the party’s president Datuk Mah Siew Keong.

“We have a national language, but other languages can also be taught in this country.

“We have Islam as the religion of the federation but other religions can be practiced without restrictions,” the prime minister added.

He said one of the reasons Malaysia won a seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) two days ago was because Malaysia embodies “the epitome of a nation that has succeeded in being a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-ethnic country”.

Vernacular schools such as Chinese and Tamil primary schools have been blamed for fostering disunity and breeding racial divide.

The Federation of Malay students’ union (GPMS) Alumni Organisation, several federal ministers and some Umno division chiefs have previously voiced their opposition to vernacular schools, claiming they no longer have a useful role in the Malaysian society.

The latest voice to join the call for the dissolution of vernacular schools was Umno Petaling Jaya Utara division deputy head Mohamad Azli Mohemed Saad, who called for the Umno general assembly to discuss abolishing the Chinese vernacular school system as it purportedly promotes racism and anti-establishment sentiments.

Najib, however, announced during his 2015 Budget speech that Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools have been allocated RM50 billion each, a move that is seen to ensure that the schools are here to stay.

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