By Ravindran Raman Kutty
The recent Merdeka Clip produced by Ikram, TV Ikram and Sinar Harian newspaper, was aimed at educating Malaysians that “racism starts from home”.
However, the masses and netizens were more drawn to the rather derogatory script, which in turn overshadowed the overall message of the clip itself.
I for one strongly believe that racism does start from home. The parents’ portrayal in the clip was well done.
As in reality, most children pick up the characteristic of racism from home. The formative years are when our children are taught everything.
There are also enough studies to prove that parents play a critical role in molding children into zealots, bigots or even racists.
In response to the clip, one of my friends said this, “…we are all well customized to racism in our benevolent country.”
From the early age of one to six years, we are at home where we hear our parents’ chats and discussions on racism. The phase of ages seven years to 19 years sees racism being institutionalized by the education or schooling system, teachers and fellow students; where we have classes totally dedicated to Muslims and non-Muslims.
In regards to schools activities or celebrations like Teachers’ Day or a class party, only Muslims are permitted to bring home-cooked food whereas non-Muslims can only bring packed snacks and packed drinks.
After Primary 6, most of the Malay students will be offered to do their secondary studies in MRSM, leaving the non-Malays to continue with Secondary 1 till Secondary 6.
Once you are 20 years old, racism is accepted as part of the life at our universities and colleges. Only certain courses are given to non-Malays. The entry level is much easier for a Malay undergraduate as compared to a Chinese or an Indian.
Then once you are 24 years old and ready to work, racism is compartmentalized, dictating where you can and cannot, should and should not work.
Even when it comes to applying for a job, GLCs are restricted for the Malays while PLCs are for non-Malays.
At the age of 30, racism dictates your purchasing power. Once you have a job, LHDN knocks at your door to remind you to pay your taxes without fail, while Malays may choose to pay other religious taxes such as zakat.
Racism exists in every country. It causes more damage to people and than any other global peril.
A tourist I met recently commented that Malaysia is beautiful and harmonious until you speak of race or religion to another.
Malaysia is 64 years old. We have had our issues with regards to race and religion.
May 13, 1969 is a dark unforgettable day in every Malaysian’s life. Malaysians have thronged the streets in protest of religious and racial issues.
We must move forward. We must seriously address our issue on racism.
I was shocked to discover that none of our educational institutions have conducted any studies on Malaysia and our racial issues.
Why is this so? We cannot speak of ethnic relations and its challenges without a proper study encompassing all Malaysians.
This Merdeka we must heal, reconcile and build a nation that will bring us together for the coming years.
This is the essence of Merdeka. We must seriously look into this racial issue by carrying out a study and come up with affirmative programs that must stretch up to every nook and corner of our nation.
The programs must not be cosmetic but instead truly address the issues on the ground and the grievances of the people.
The study must encompass our education policy and system, teaching methods, economic policies, poverty levels, our existing national unity efforts and programs and how it can benefit the nation and the citizens.
Our political party’s setup is currently either ethnic-based or religious-based and our poverty levels – this must be looked at, too.
This study and the findings must be debated in the parliament and carefully implemented by a special or specific ministry.
The new emerging economies like Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico, Poland, Egypt, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh, alongside Brazil, China, India, and Russia are excelling in their own ways to bring about change in their countries.
We are no more in that category nor do we paint the picture of a roaring nation.
Our economy is at its lowest ranking due to the gradual climb of issues on race and religion, an unstable government, and with the added on problem of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Our nation is not to be taken for granted, as it has always been forgiving and very tolerant.
We have been enjoying its enormous benefits, but also continuously abusing them.
This must stop. As responsible leaders, conscientious citizens and a caring civil society, we should all play a bigger role in addressing the elephant in the room.
While addressing the issues of the pandemic, the new government should also focus on the issue of ethnic relations and be bold and brave in finding solutions to solve such issues, and not remain complacent with minor or temporary solutions.
It is not just about making a video clip for Merdeka talking about our national unity or showing three races in all our Merdeka advertisements or publicity materials. It is about an affirmative program that hovers over all national policies. It is like Indonesia’s Pancasila and our very own but almost forgotten Rukunegara ideology that stands behind the activities, programs, policies and direction of our nation.
We may be emotional about race and religion today. This is not wrong. However, being emotional without being rational is morally and ethically wrong. Every Malaysian must think of our country and its interest rather than just allowing or listening to politicians.
We must also bring out our patriotism in the interest of our beautiful nation by ensuring the government is listening to the pains and cries of the people.
No race should be neglected. No religion should be castigated. We are known for our diversity. This is a unique penumbra that makes us beautiful, colorful and wonderful.
World leaders respect us for this binding tapestry of culture, race and our vibrancy. These assets must be safeguarded and protected from all attacks.
Our opposition may not come from external parties, but internal, too. Our people can become our enemy.
We must quickly intervene and devise strategies and programs to build a nation that is truly independent of racial and religious bigotry but excels in technology, education, delivering world-class service, developing technocrats and leaders who are second to none.
Malaysia has everything. We have blue skies, golden beaches, chilling highlands, teeming raindrops, smooth roads, opulent gardens, sumptuous food, industrious labor force, world class logistics and supply management, encouraging tax rebates and above all our biggest asset known as the most beautiful people of earth called Malaysians.
This combination is rare and unique. Let’s not take this for granted. Let’s revere this and work carefully with our political leaders who are sensible.
Let’s do away with leaders who are working for their selfish interest. We have had enough. We have lost not only 15,000 lives due to the pandemic, but many are also planning to migrate from our country.
We have lost trillions in terms of national assets and savings.
This Merdeka is for all Malaysians and we are to be reminded of our nation’s foremost objective: to be united as a Malaysian Family.
This can only be derived through fair, systematic and pragmatic approaches based on targeted and focused national studies and program.
We need no more sobriquets of slogans or propaganda, but instead affirmative programs that will be felt and touched by every citizen in our country.
Happy Merdeka Malaysia!
(Ravindran Raman Kutty is an active social worker.)