Proposal for a Race Relations Act in Malaysia was made in Dewan Negara in July 2009

Question: Urges this house government to legislate Race Relation Act to eliminate racial discrimination in public and private sector, entrance to university and matriculation levels, in awarding the federal, state and local government tenders. The main purpose of this act is to promote harmonious and healthy relationship among all races in Malaysia with the elimination of racial inequities and discriminations. Therefore, it is proposed that the government must be concern and takes a serious view on the racial discrimination and inequality of other races in these sectors. This act can be enforced and mandated to ensure that the local authorities, federal and local government, private companies, government linked company (GLC), and local universities to introduce race equality program which is based on merit in all employment aspects especially in the aspect of hiring manpower and student enrolment, promotion, training, and learning opportunity in local and overseas. At the same time, the government need to set up a Race Relation Commission under this act to ensure the enforcement and implementation of Race Relation Act”.

Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon replied this question as follows

Yang Berhormat Senator Dr. Ramakrishnan propose Race Relation Act been enacted to eliminate racial discrimination. Tuan Yang Di-Pertua, the suggestion to legislate the Race Relation Act in this country has emerged during the Dewan Rakyat sitting after the 2008 elections. Some members of Dewan Rakyat raised and debated issues that deemed sensitive and spoke on certain specific matters which can worsen the fragile relation among races. These issues including special rights of Malays and legal interest of other races, royal institutions, status of Islam and freedom of religions, judicial issues, freedom to say issues and others.

During the debate in Dewan Rakyat the situation tense and emotions were running high. The debate on race relations issues has got wide coverage in mass media and electronic media. As a result of this debate political, societal, academic and general public gave their respective views and opinions.  One of the suggestions which have been brought out was that an act on race relation to be enacted to control certain self interest groups or certain individuals from politicising, fabricating and twisting and turning racial issues that are set in the in the Federal Constitution and also to prevent debate or implement matters by the way which can abrade and distant the relation among races in this country.

Since several of reactions, opinions, and suggestions which showed in mass media has become quite heated up, so the cabinet Ministers in their meeting on 10th September 2008 gave instruction to Department of National Unity and National Integration (JPNIN) which at that time under the Ministry of Unity, Culture arts and heritage brink opinion on the need to enact a Race Relation Act. Thus, government through Institute of Ethnic Study or in other words KITA, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) under Professor Shamsul Bahrin has a held one day roundtable discussion regarding the proposal of Race Relation Act enactment in Malaysia.  

On 30th October 2008, this discussion was joined by academicians, representatives of NGO, public sector, and private sector. The purpose of this discussion is to collect early opinions and suggestions to legislate the act. The outcome was that only small a group supported the enactment of the act, while the rest disagreed. The disagreed group thought that:

         i.            Federal Constitution is national trait, which taking into consideration the interest of all races in our country. In addition, the present act is sufficient to address the racial issues. Only the implementation and certain act may need to be focused. If needed, the present act can be conscientious and make improvement anywhere necessary;

       ii.            The new proposed act might dissent with the certain clauses in the Federal Constitution;

     iii.            The act cannot force someone to like others. Instead to engrave unity values through education and socialization process, deemed will give more positive impact;

     iv.            Usually only a few politicians and certain mass media which make the racial issue very sensation. Not the people who were always not too involved, even sometimes they are worried;

       v.            Generally the race relation issue involve Peninsular Malaysia and not too obvious and serious in Sabah and Sarawak.

The group which support the act to be enacted thought that:

         i.            The government need to establish a race relation commission to address the racial  issues;

       ii.            The race relation act can avoid discrimination happened among races and prevent unexpected manner;

     iii.            This act can be a guide to all races in order not to stir up the issues that can abrade the race relation.

According to the result of this discussion summary, the cabinet Minister on January 2009 has decided that was no need to legislate a new act. This is because the present act such as Internal Security Act, Sedition Act, Printing Machine and Publication Act are enough to control any party which stir up issues that can abrade relation among races. Government thought that it is better the present acts to be reviewed, cleared, strengthen anywhere needed and implemented with more effective and more fairly.

As a way to stop, protect and strengthen the national unity, the government has introduced a few initiative which included in 1Malaysia concept and Government Transformation Program and also New Economic Model that urging unity in diversity which is drived by unity thrusts and engraving aspiration values with also inclusiveness concept so that all races benefit from the principles which are implemented by the government, and no group of citizen is isolated or denied their rights. Besides that, the government will continuously improving the present programmes and introducing new program to manure understanding and unity like Rukun Tetangga and Volunteer Patrol Scheme in the housing areas under JPNIN, Student Integration Plan and social interaction for youth and women. Encouragement and support also have been given to private companies and NGOs to play positive roles in organizing activity to encourage interaction among ethnic groups. Hence, the government thought that focus should be given towards concrete steps like that in order to be more effective compared with enacting a new act at this time.

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