KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 — Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah today said identity politics has long been abused and continues to create disunity among Malaysians. 

The social activist turned politician said identity politics must be removed from the national agenda and in order to achieve this every Malaysian should start asking the hard and sensitive questions that involve race and religion and the disparity between benefits each race enjoys in the country. 

“Identity is important as it determines how we are defined. The challenge we face today is that the identity is being politicised by groups whether they are political or non-political actors to exclude and discriminate.

“That kind of identity politics has to be buried and buried as soon as possible,” said Maria during the Institute For Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) 4th Liberalism Conference in Kuala Lumpur today.

Maria said recent events such as the anti-International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) rally and the Malay Dignity Congress on October 6 shows that Malaysia is still one-sided towards a specific race and such events perpetuate the already strained race relations among the multiracial community in the country. 

Maria said there is a need to change the people’s mindset and setting a new narrative to change the old narrative of living with identity politics.

She encouraged Malaysians to look at each other as one entity that together can be strong and united rather than spout a narrative that promotes a single race as being superior to the rest.

She also said the other big challenge for Malaysians is the institutions that exist in Malaysia tasked with unity have not played its role in ensuring unity among the different races.

“The institutions have not played their role as much as we want them to. They have actually to be honest that they have failed us and divided us through not just promoting identity politics but the lack of good governance.

“Therefore you see Malaysia being divided into many many issues. 

“What we need is for policies that are implemented to be actually followed through in ensuring all those who are in need are getting the help they are entitled to.”

Maria said changing identity politics is not easy as it is a mindset that’s lived with Malaysians for many years and not just about the present Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

Maria said one of the ways to change this is to include the voices from civil societies as well.

She also recalled how before the previous general elections there was the National Unity Consultative Commission (NUCC) which had many good recommendations as to how Malaysians can start engaging and start moving away from identity politics.

She said two key laws raised for recommendation was the National Harmony and Integration bill and also the Anti Racial and Hate Crime Bill. 

“These are important recommendations and we need these laws to set the legal and substantive argument as to why we need to safeguard religious harmony.

“But we have not heard any discussions along the recommendations of NUCC post 9 May (2018). We have to start pushing again for these recommendations to be discussed and put on the national table and be implemented in whatever form.

“Then start the initiative to start talking about issues that are sensitive as in the past one to two years we are seeing an increase in racial and religious bigotry. If we play our role we can see this does not continue anymore in our economic policies nor our social policies,” she added.