Who’s the racist?

The ongoing spat between de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz and former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad over the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) has cast a spotlight over a bigger issue than whether the BTN needs a revamp.

By Oon Yeoh (The Edge)

The mutual name-calling of “racist” raises the question of whether race-based political parties are relevant to this day and age and thus should be retained or are an anachronism that needs to be addressed immediately.

Mahathir said it himself: “Umno is a parti perkauman and is meant only for Malays and nobody (else) can join. So he (Nazri) is in a racist party but says he is against racism. So he should resign from the party.”

No doubt the wily former premier was being sarcastic but there is more than a ring of truth in what he says. Umno – just like its key partners in Barisan Nasional (BN), MCA and MIC – is a race-based party that excludes members of other races. The raison d’tere of a race-based party is to defend and promote the rights of a specific race. So, while Mahathir might have been sarcastic in calling Umno a racist party, he is technically correct. By definition, race-specific parties are racist.

One might argue that back in the 1950s – and perhaps even in the 1960s and 70s – having race-based parties was necessary though even such an assertion is debatable. The thinking is that it’s ok to have each party fighting for its own community as long as these parties all belong to the same coalition. That way, no one party dominates. We all know that’s not how it’s played out over the decades since independence.

The harsh reality is most of us have been so conditioned to the fact that race plays such a big factor in everyday life in Malaysia that none of us would even raise an eyebrow if an application form (for anything you might want to apply for) asks us for our race or religion. In fact, we would probably be surprised if such forms didn’t contain such fields.

Those who have had the opportunity to study or work abroad in the West would, however, be appalled. Over there, asking an applicant what his race or religion was is not only considered inappropriate but is, in fact, illegal. And imagine the furor that would erupt if a leading politician tried to form a national political party that comprised only Caucasians or Blacks or Hispanics and excludes all others.

So why should such things be desirable or even acceptable here in Malaysia? Is it an Asian value to be exclusionary, insular and to promote only one’s community?

Read more at: http://www.theedgemalaysia.com/first/155328-whos-the-racist.html