Skip to content

Unity 101: Fearful Race Relations Act Revisited

Race Relations Act 1965 1960s UK Unity Law Legal

The Race Relations Act was a series of laws passed in the UK to prohibit racial discrimination and promote equal opportunities for people of different racial groups. The first Race Relations Act was enacted in 1965, followed by two more in 1968 and 1976. Image source: Insitute of Race Relations


Recently Malaysian politicians killed the proposed Race Relations Act for laughable reasons. RPK took a shot at this decision and said this in his blog: –

Indonesia is not safe for the Chinese, many Malays will tell you. They kill Chinese in Indonesia. And that is why many Chinese have left Indonesia and have migrated to another country. The Chinese are more fortunate in Malaysia. In no other country are the Chinese as lucky as the Chinese in Malaysia. This is the belief of most Malays.

Well, in November 2008, Indonesia passed the Non-discrimination Act (UU No. 62/58) that makes it a crime to discriminate against any ethnic group. Indonesia’s aim is to unite all the races. Sure, there may have been problems in Indonesia in the past.

Malaysia too has been having problems on and off since even before Merdeka. But Indonesia is trying to change all that. Malaysia is not only perpetuating racial problems but we even have institutionalised racial discrimination.

Race Relations Act UK

The Race Relations Act 1968 was an act of the UK Parliament that made it illegal to refuse housing, employment, or public services to a person based on their race, colour, or national or ethnic origins.

The act also expanded the provisions of the 1965 Race Relations Act, which banned racial discrimination in public places and made promoting racial hatred a crime.

The Race Relations Act of 1971 prohibited discrimination based on race, nationality, or ethnic origin. In 1977, the scope of the act was extended to include discrimination based on marital status, sex, and religious or ethical beliefs.

Indonesia Race Relations Lessons

Indonesia is a country that has made progress in promoting equality and human rights for its citizens. However, it does not have a comprehensive law that prohibits discrimination and ensures equal treatment for all people, especially those who are vulnerable or marginalized. Instead, it has a patchwork of laws and regulations that address different aspects of discrimination and equality, such as:

  • The 1945 Constitution, states that all citizens have equal status and rights before the law and the government, and are entitled to work and have a reasonable standard of living.
  • The Labour Law, states that each employee has an equal opportunity to obtain work and receive equal treatment from the employer without discrimination based on various grounds, such as ideology, religion, ethnic group, gender, physical condition or marital status.
  • The Law on the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination prohibits any act that discriminates against a person or a group of people based on their race or ethnicity and imposes sanctions for violators.
  • The Law on Disabled People requires employers to employ at least one disabled person for every 100 employees and provides for the protection and empowerment of disabled people in various sectors, such as education, health, social welfare and public services.
  • The laws that ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions on discrimination and equal remuneration, which oblige Indonesia to eliminate discrimination in respect of employment and occupation, and to ensure equal pay for men and women for work of equal value.

These laws and regulations reflect the principles of participation, non-discrimination and accessibility that are essential for the inclusion of people with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups in the development process. However, there are still many challenges and barriers that prevent these laws from being effectively implemented and enforced. Some of these challenges include:

  • The lack of awareness and understanding of the rights and needs of people with disabilities and other marginalized groups among the public and the authorities.
  • The lack of coordination and collaboration among different ministries and agencies that are responsible for implementing the laws and policies related to discrimination and equality.
  • The lack of data and information on the situation and conditions of people with disabilities and other marginalized groups in various sectors and regions.
  • The lack of resources and capacity to provide adequate services and facilities for people with disabilities and other marginalized groups, such as accessible transportation, education, health care, employment and social protection.
  • The lack of participation and representation of people with disabilities and other marginalized groups in the decision-making processes that affect their lives.
  • The persistence of negative attitudes and stereotypes that stigmatize and exclude people with disabilities and other marginalized groups from society.

Therefore, there is a need for Indonesia to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law that covers all grounds of discrimination and all areas of life. Such a law would provide a clear definition of discrimination, establish mechanisms for prevention, monitoring, reporting, investigation and redress, as well as promote awareness-raising, education and training on human rights and diversity.

A comprehensive anti-discrimination law would also harmonize the existing laws and regulations that deal with different aspects of discrimination and equality, and ensure their consistency with the international standards and obligations that Indonesia has ratified.

Race relation ICERD Malaysia Unity Equality

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) is a United Nations convention that came in effect in January 1969 & has 88 signatories todate. Malaysia has not ratified ICERD citing conflict with the Malaysian constitution and the race and religious norms in Malaysia established since its independence. Image source: Immigration Taiwan

Final Say

Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country with a predominantly Muslim population. However, racial discrimination is embodied within the social and economic policies of the Malaysian government, favouring the Malays and in principle, the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. This concept of Malay supremacy or Ketuanan Melayu is accepted by the Malay-majority political sphere.

Institutionalised racism takes many forms in Malaysia and most would be unacceptable in any progressive society. Racism is evident in rigid quotas for Malays – regardless of need – in public education, access to jobs in the government and government-linked companies, benefits of mortgage reduction and reserved equity in listed companies. The education system, devoid of competition, is skewed in favour of the Malays. The non-Malays are often derogatorily called second-class citizens. The grand narrative of non-Malay or Chinese discrimination of the Malays has provided the ideological justification for the continuation of the racist system.

The challenge of wiping out racism from 21st-century Malaysia is not easy, as it requires both communities, at least those who are aware, to join hands to fight and dismantle the pernicious system.

The non-Malays should be bold enough to question their existential status, speak out on racism in non-racial terms and engage the Malays to show their displeasure. The Malays, particularly the elite, should realise that the racist system will not benefit them in the long run but will impoverish them.

The parliamentary elections might not bring about the desired change, as racial politics tops racism incidents in Malaysia. A civil rights movement that transcends politics and race might be needed to address this issue.

2 thoughts on “Unity 101: Fearful Race Relations Act Revisited”

  1. I honestly believe that you can have all the laws in the world to outlaw racial discrimination but bigotry is something that comes from ones mind. It isn’t something you can outlaw. People might behave in a less racist way but their minds will still be fixated on the fact that someone else with a different skin color, race or religion ought to be despised.

    Things like bigotry can only be solved if we as the people of this nation decided to open up to others regardless of race or religion and communicate. A cultural discourse is what’s needed to solidy a society that is united and understanding.

    But in the current climate where Indians think that Malays are out to get them and Malays worry that their religion and race are being threatened, we cannot possibly further any of our social agendas. ‘Fear’ is truly holding this nation back.

  2. Aston – true.

    Everyone discriminates based on race once in a while but to stop a widespread of racial discriminates, waiting for one to open up is going to take a very long to materialise. Until then, some kind of law and sanction may lead the society to the correct direction.

Please Leave Your Thoughts on the Post

Discover more from BJ - Thoughts

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading