Biggest problem plaguing ‘Malaysia 2.0’? Racial and religious polarisation, forum told

General view of ‘Perdana Forum: Whither Maruah Malaysia 2.0’ in Kuala Lumpur October 25, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
General view of ‘Perdana Forum: Whither Maruah Malaysia 2.0’ in Kuala Lumpur October 25, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 — Academics, politicians, experts and activists believe that one of the biggest problems facing Malaysia 2.0 is race and religion polarisation.

Speaking at the ‘Whither Maruah Malaysia 2.0’ forum here today, academic Professor Lim Teck Ghee outright said that post-GE14 has been an “unmitigated disaster” for the nation’s reform movement.

“What happened in GE14 has been described as a tsunami. We know tsunamis are a once-in-a-lifetime event. What happens next is more important than the tsunami itself. This is where we need to do the asking what we need to focus on.

“It’s very clear post-GE14 has been an unmitigated disaster for the reform movement. That’s why we are all here. We are trying to see what’s gone wrong, what is the role ahead and what we can do together,” said Lim.

Lim Teck Ghee speaks during ‘Perdana Forum: Whither Maruah Malaysia 2.0’ in Kuala Lumpur October 25, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Lim Teck Ghee speaks during ‘Perdana Forum: Whither Maruah Malaysia 2.0’ in Kuala Lumpur October 25, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

He noted that with the list of political disappointments and failures by the current Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration growing by the day, it was right to ask whether Malaysia is back to square one and whether the so-called “tsunami” was actually a “small wave”.

Some of the failures that PH failed to address include race relations, governance, the recently concluded Malay Dignity Congress as well as the Dr Zakir Naik issue among others.

However, he did not single out any ethnic group or political party for this perceived failure; instead believing that every Malaysian shoulders the blame, saying that the entire nation must change its mindset of racial and religious polarisation.

“It’s not simply Umno and PAS leaders with this mindset. This mindset is also there with the civil service in the PH leadership. It needs to be addressed. What needs to be done next, we need to be realistic. We find the reform agenda is not just around the corner, it’s a marathon and beyond.

“It’s much more than the Malay mindset that needs transformation but all. The whole bunch of us Chinese, Indians, East Malaysians, we are all part of the ‘Ugly Malaysian’. Queue cutting, name dropping, ass kissing, frog jumping, datukship worshipping, this is a culture that prevails,” Lim said.

Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan speaks during ‘Perdana Forum: Whither Maruah Malaysia 2.0’ in Kuala Lumpur October 25, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan speaks during ‘Perdana Forum: Whither Maruah Malaysia 2.0’ in Kuala Lumpur October 25, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Meanwhile, renowned activist Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan cautioned her fellow panellist, saying that all is not doom and gloom as there is still hope for the country.

But to achieve the GE14 dream, the ruling administration must have some spine and courage in order to do so, she continued.

She pointed out that PH should never have allowed itself to be sidetracked by the games that the Opposition play and must remain firm in its decision to reform the country for the better.

Ambiga observed that the moment the ruling coalition is sidetracked, it plays into the hands of the Umno-PAS alliance and this will give them the advantage.

“But the government must stand firm. For example, the manner which ICERD came about. It became a racial issue and the government instead of standing up to them, gave in to them. And of course, they haven’t stopped giving in. That’s what happens when you give in.

“You give in once, you will continue giving in. What’s the game plan when you have extreme racist rhetoric? I’m expecting our leaders to show courage, put their foot down and say this is unacceptable rhetoric. We have come to see hate speech being spread online and via social media.

“What do we expect them to do? We expect them to speak for everyone, to speak for those who are hurt by the comments of those who are racist,” said Ambiga.

She proposed that Putrajaya sets up a bipartisan committee on race relations in order to have a serious conversation and to “recalibrate” the nation.

The former Bersih 2.0 chief said that if the government is not doing it, then it is up to ordinary Malaysians to galvanise such a movement.

Ambiga then recommended the book penned by Perak Ruler Sultan Nazrin Shah titled Striving for Inclusive Development: From Pangkor to a Modern Malaysian State, citing the last chapter which contains many recommendations that politicians can pick up to change the nation.

“Every politician, every MP should read the book by Sultan Nazrin called From Pangkor to a Modern Malaysian State.

“In the last chapter, His Highness sets out ways we can recalibrate the nation and what is it we need to do to make sure we can compete in this global climate, instead of being a recluse, an island, but one where we can stand proud,” said Ambiga.

Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker speaks during ‘Perdana Forum: Whither Maruah Malaysia 2.0’ in Kuala Lumpur October 25, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker speaks during ‘Perdana Forum: Whither Maruah Malaysia 2.0’ in Kuala Lumpur October 25, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

MCA vice-president Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker, on the other hand, questioned whether or not the voters’ decision to cast their ballot in favour of PH over Barisan Nasional (BN) had granted their hopes and dreams.

He acknowledged BN’s failure as a ruling administration but asked the audience if there is real change after PH’s takeover, and whether things are getting better or becoming worse.

Ti then slammed the ruling coalition for being “obsessed” with power or retaining power as can allegedly be seen in the tiff between PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his followers who are demanding a date of transition from Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Siti Kassim speaks during ‘Perdana Forum: Whither Maruah Malaysia 2.0’ in Kuala Lumpur October 25, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Siti Kassim speaks during ‘Perdana Forum: Whither Maruah Malaysia 2.0’ in Kuala Lumpur October 25, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Firebrand lawyer Siti Kassim then called Malaysia one of the most racist and bigoted nations on the planet due to the fact that it is institutionalising race-based policies.

“The curse of race and religion being put into law has made us a society of Us vs Them. It should have been love among us all. Even Israel has equal Muslim citizens. But Malaysia is getting more and more racist and exclusive by developing religious policies day by day, year by year.

“We are one of the most racist and bigoted countries on Earth. What other nation gives 100 per cent university quota just for one race? Which other nation has institutionalised policies on race but Malaysia? Where is the dignity in that?

“Where is the dignity in funding religious affairs using every taxpayers’ funds when it is a constitutional mandate for those of a different religion not to fund something that is not theirs,” said the outspoken activist, before adding that Putrajaya should leave Islamic matters to the Sultans.

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