KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 4 — The “Bangsa Malaysia” or "Malaysian nation" concept has been hampered by toxic racial politics especially when elections near, National Unity Minister Datuk Seri Aaron Ago Dagang said today.

Highlighting the motto “Unity in Diversity”, the minister also said there was a need to defend and preserve the country's diversity.

Aaron said the government had carried out various efforts, but that there were still obstacles to Bangsa Malaysia that were mostly rooted in racial sentiments that were shadowing Malaysians.

“The main challenge in realising Bangsa Malaysia is due to toxic racial politics played up by politicians. Until in certain moments, especially before or during elections, sensitive issues will be revived until it causes anxiety in all layers of society,” he said in his keynote address at Harmony Malaysia's sixth annual conference “Bangsa Malaysia: Myth or Reality” which was organised in collaboration with the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.


The minister said the Bangsa Malaysia concept is not aimed at creating a new nation and erasing certain ethnic identities, but said this concept stresses on the sharing of the same values among all races and ethnicities in Malaysia in line with the ideology of cosmopolitanism.

He also said that Malaysia is equivalent to diversity itself, and pointed to the “Unity in Diversity” motto.

He said that all efforts to create a dignified nation that is united and living together peacefully in upholding the principles of justice and truth should be upheld by all citizens.


The minister said the bridge of harmony which is built on love and mutual trust is the foundation of building a nation state and said it is not an easy task, adding that his ministry has been working hard to promote national unity.

“Malaysia is the world's best model in its earnestness to defend diversity and to maintain peace and harmony,” he said while urging for the preservation of Malaysia's unity.

Earlier in his speech, the minister referred to how "Bangsa Malaysia" has been defined in the past, including then prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein's July 12, 1971 speech when presenting the Second Malaysia Plan and the New Economic Policy where the latter had urged all citizens to contribute in the Rukun Negara spirit towards developing a just society and a "bangsa Malaysia" that is developed, modern and united.

The minister said however that Tun Abdul Razak's speech was increasingly being forgotten and said that the concept of "Bangsa Malaysia" should be discussed widely again to ensure it becomes part of efforts to create an inclusive national identity for all Malaysians.

He added that the ambition to create "bangsa Malaysia" will only be a reality when all citizens are ready to accept the vision of "one country one nation".

The minister also referred to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as having said that "Bangsa Malaysia" is a "people being capable to identify themselves with the country, speak Bahasa Malaysia and accept the Federal Constitution".

Later when met by reporters and asked to elaborate on his comments on toxic racial politics, the minister said race-related issues are raised in each election, and said this is why he had mentioned “toxic politics”.

“Many factors but above that is politics. It is political will that has to melt down other issues, so that is very important, so I don't have to go beyond that," he said, adding that it would be further discussed during a panel discussion involving four speakers at the conference.

He said everyone understands and knows this matter regarding toxic politics, adding that Malaysia has a lot of race-based political parties.

“But we have to be thankful, race-based, we have been able to be united, and even now we have a unity government, we invite everybody to be in politics.

“And this is a very plus culture that we have in Malaysia. We are able to collaborate, we are able to understand, and this is what we want to promote so that we have unity and harmony,” he said.