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Unity 101: We Don’t Need The Important Race Relation Act?

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

Let me begin with a simple scenario:-

There is a 4 way intersection and let’s assume that the traffic is heavy and there is no traffic lights or traffic policeman on sight (ya, no hidden cameras as well). Let’s assume further that it is the morning rush. What do you think will happen at this intersection?

Do you think the drivers will act civilised and courteous to keep the intersection free and only move when there is enough room?

In Malaysia, it is rather impossible unless everyone wakes up and decides to do the right thing. In a country where queue-jumping and racing on the emergency lane is a norm, being at the intersection is going to be a nightmare.

Now picture the same scenario but this time, imagine that there is a law called the “Intersection Rules Act” which makes it unlawful to drive and choke up the intersection if the road is congested. Imagine that the Act also makes it unlawful for queue jumpers and road hoggers. Punishment is 5 years in jail or a very high penalty is imposed on lawbreakers.

What will happen to the intersection now? Will the rude crazy Malaysian drivers still behave at the intersection? Will the fear of being punished push people to behave properly?

The non-Malays, especially those of Chinese and Indian descent, have been accustomed to accepting the reality of being “second-class citizens”. Some sections within the community believe this is the price to be paid to have a slice of the pie and opposition to this might not be an option.

Many non-Malays have resigned to accept the status quo of entrenched and divisive racial discrimination. The Malays, particularly the elite, are prime beneficiaries of the racially entrenched system. Some are not aware of the actual situation, but many having benefited, do not intend to remove the system that feeds them.

The challenge of wiping out racism from 21st century Malaysia requires both communities, at least those who are aware, to join hands to fight and dismantle the pernicious system. The non-Malays must be bold to question their existential status, speak out on racism in non-racial terms and engage the Malays to show their displeasure.

The Malays who understand the situation better than others must articulate their thoughts that the racist system will not benefit them in the long-run but will impoverish them. Civil disobedience movements, protests and other forms of activism could be the start of such awakening to move away from the institutionalised racist system.

Let’s come back to this intended Race Relations Act which was proposed by the Cabinet, only for it to be revoked by them. This is what they said as the reason for its cancellation:-

The Cabinet has scrapped the proposed Race Relations Act, says Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal. The Cabinet decided two weeks ago against having such an Act after studying the matter thoroughly, he said.

“We have lived in harmony for more than 50 years. Why can’t we continue to do so? You cannot force someone to like you. It must come naturally,” he said at a media luncheon yesterday at a hotel here organised by the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation (MCPF).

“Race relation is something that cannot be forced upon the people through legislation. That’s why everyone in the Cabinet agreed there was no need for such an Act,” he added. Shafie, who is also MCPF chairman, said he had discussed the proposal for the Act with many experts, and all were against it.

(Source: TheStar)

Hmmm, this reminds me of another Act that was turned down by the Cabinet – Witness Protection Act. Once again, the logic for turning down the Act is simply dubious and somewhat does not justify the reasons.

Malaysia does not have a Race Relations Act (no thanks to some small-minded politicians) but many countries have one. One example is the United Kingdom’s Race Relations Act 1976. That Act in essence makes race discrimination unlawful in employment, education, training and provision of goods, facilities and services.

The Act further defines discrimination as direct and indirect discrimination as follows:-

Direct race discrimination occurs when a person treats another person less favourably on the grounds of colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin. Examples include – refusing to serve ethnic minority clients or ignoring racial harassment of employees

Indirect race discrimination occurs when a condition or requirement which a smaller proportion from the victim’s racial group can comply with, and is detrimental to the victim because s/he cannot comply with it, and cannot be shown to be justifiable irrespective of the colour, race, nationality or national and ethnic origins of the person to whom it is applied. For example, requirement of a certain height.

It gets even better. The United Kingdom then came out with an amendment to the 1976 Act. The Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 puts specific duties on the authorities, one of which is:-

Assess whether their functions and policies are relevant to race equality

Monitor their policies to see how they affect race equality

Now let’s think about this for a while. Having a Race Relations Act may not be a bad idea after all. As the Minister said, it cannot be forced on the people but certainly it can be forced on the Government and the civil servants to start doing the right things.

Let’s assume the Government indeed introduced the Race Relations Act and moulded it in the spirit of the UK’s Race Relations Act. What does that mean to politicians in the ruling party? End of NEP? End of race-based favouritism? End of a race-based political party? Real punishment of racial retards like Ahmad Ismail?

And whilst the people have indeed been living together in harmony for more than 50 years, who is the culprit behind the racial friction in the last few years? The people or the politicians? So, who is likely to have a burning rear if the Race Relations Act comes into force? Once again, the people or the politicians?

On the other hand, having legislation such as the Race Relations Act may help to close the loopholes that exist when it comes to race relationships between Malaysians.

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