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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Racism: Apology OK but deterrent, comprehensive action needed


Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

The apology from the Bukit Selambau headmistress for her racist remarks is a good first step, but it will require much stiffer response such as a public reprimand, demotion or even sacking followed by a slew of corrective policies in order for the healing process to begin in the Malaysian society after being intentionally torn apart for decades by its own ruling politicians.

Pundits say all trails lead to Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Umno party and his predecessor Mahathir Mohamad, under whose watch, the programs ran by Biro Tata Negara for civil servants, university and college students took a sinister and distinctly propagandist form.

“An apology is the right place to start but Bukit Selambau is not an isolated incident," PKR vice president Lee Boon Chye told Malaysia Chronicle..

"Just this year alone, we had Nasir Safa, the Kulai headmistress, Bukit Bendera's Ahmad Ismail, Selangor's Noh Omar and worse of all Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. These suggest a root cause in Umno, its policies and its propaganda spread through BTN, Utusan and its other media including the Star."

Corrective polices needed as well

Indeed, both the Kedah headmistress and her peer in Johor, Siti Inshah, are products of the BN-government system and training. Last week, both women publicly chastised their Chinese pupils in public and told them they could go back to China. Siti Inshah even liked her Indian pupils to dogs.

But despite the severity of their offenses and the thunderous public backlash, the Education ministry and its minister DPM Muhyiddin have tried to downplay the incidents. Till now neither women have been suspended. The Kedah principal is still at work in her school while Siti Inshah has gone on leave.

“Until and unless the BN government, which actually means Umno, takes concrete steps to correct its policies such as abolishing the BTN and ordering the press like Utusan, Star and NST to stop pushing racial issues, there is no hope for 1Malaysia let alone unite the races,” PAS vice president Salahuddin Ayub toldMalaysia Chronice.

"What we need is multi-pronged action. Not just against the headmistresses or those who commit racism but also those who promote it, and at the policy level, there must also be government reforms."

Muhyiddin quiet, Siti fights back

Nonetheless, despite the hail of criticism, Siti Inshah or her supporters have launched a fight-back, opening a page in Facebook Sokong Cikgu Puan Hajah Siti Mangsa Politik or Support Siti Inshah a policitical victim. It has managed to drum up 2,196 fans since beginning on Saturday.

News of Siti's page sparked fears that Umno hawks were intent on brazening out on the issue on the grounds that the Malay teaching community was too valuable an electorate to antagonize. A couple of days later, her critics started a counter-page Tidak Sokong Cikgu Puan Hajah Siti Inshah or Do Not Support Siti Inshah, and it appears to be catching up fast with 1,249 fans.

Pundits say that while a powerful tool, Facebook is easily abused especially by those with huge resources like Umno. Earlier this, Umno Youth launched a page pushing for the word Allah to be used exclusively by Muslims. But while it generated countless of thousands of fans, Umno still lost the battle of perception with majority of Malaysians.

“You can’t keep using the media, public relations, propaganda and spin to justify your case. That is just too shallow. Solutions have to be anchored in reality, to morality and righteousness. Then only can they sustain,” human rights lawyer and PKR Youth leader Goo Hsiao Leung told Malaysia Chronicle.

“There is a more pressing issue to be dealt with by the government. These are not isolated racial incidences. Racial prejudice and intolerance appears to be occurring in schools across the country. Worse still, these statements are by people in authority. The time has also come for the BN leaders to state their stand starting with Muhyiddin.

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