Tear down the wall of silence

By Wong Chun Wai, TheStar

We must be brave enough to confront the racist bullies in our midst. If we remain silent, we will unwittingly allow them to hijack our national goals.

THE message has been made loud and clear – there will be zero tolerance for racism. No rational and reasonable Malaysia would argue against this in the wake of racist remarks made by bigoted Malaysians.

We are used to bankrupt politicians uttering hurtful words about other communities in the belief that they can win votes by projecting themselves as racist supremacists and, by extension, as protectors of their race.

But this sickening action seems to have grown, with more racial champions being given bigger space in the media, which would only encourage them further.

Frankly, some of these figures, who now also include obscure academics, have been created by the media. Without this platform, they would otherwise be just nobodies. In fact, most Malaysians would prefer for them to stay that way as their actions have created ill feelings and polarisation.

Their racially warped writings and statements, which may seem supportive of the government, have not helped the ruling party.

They may like to think that they are doing the national leaders a service, but the truth is they are held in disgust and contempt by most Malaysians. They have, in fact, inflicted serious damage to the government.

The media, both mainstream and alternative, should downplay their racist statements: better still, spike it – or delete it, as the modern journalist would say.

After 53 years of independence, Malaysian politicians and community leaders, by right, should be more confident, outward looking and politically mature but the perception is that we have gone downhill.

The ugly side, or more aptly the darker side, of some politicians seems to have emerged, which must be one of the dampeners to the National Day celebrations.

How can we remain indifferent when politicians, people we used to hold with high regard, suddenly start to beat the racial drum instead of passing the pipe of peace around?

What has shaken many Malaysians is that the appalling actions of some of these racists seem to have garnered a following.

Otherwise, how does one explain reports of Perkasa expressing support for the headmistress from Johor who purportedly made racist remarks or the outpouring of support for her in her Facebook page?

Most of us have been brought up by our parents to believe that there can be only be right or wrong. They also taught us that there are only good and bad people.

But there are also the ugly people now. Racism in whatever form is sickening. We have all experienced it in one form or another.

None of these experiences were pleasant, even if they seemed minor and were not worth getting upset about.

But we need to stand up at some point and say that we cannot tolerate racism and will not allow politicians to get away with statements which cause unhappiness.

Neither should the government be seen to be dragging its feet when taking action against people such as the headmistress. Why in the world do we need a task force to investigate the simple case of a headmistress? It’s either she did it or she didn’t.

If she didn’t, and that the issue has been hyped up unnecessarily, let her enjoy her holidays in peace. If she is guilty, then act against her. Let’s get this case over and done with so the nation can move on.

The Education Ministry must also issue notices to all schools to stress that racist statements cannot be accepted nor tolerated and that action, including expulsion of students, would be carried out if anyone is found violating these rules.

This is a normal practice in many British schools and we should adopt this disciplinary code if we are committed to zero tolerance. It will be a mockery to have the 1Malaysian slogan painted on the school walls if the teachers or students within do not practise it.

We must be brave enough to confront racist bullies. We must be ready to tell those who claim to champion the cause of our community that their myopic line will not benefit Malaysia.

It is when some of us remain silent that we unwittingly allow these self-appointed community leaders to hijack our national goals. We must realise that by choosing to close an eye, we may well give the impression that we are silent racists.

The coming weeks will be a time when Malaysians come together to celebrate Hari Raya. It will be a time for sharing and, more importantly, for forgiving. Let politics take a back seat and use the opportunity to turn down the political decibel.

Malaysians cannot afford to be bogged down by inconsequential debates which put the country in a bad light. If Malaysia is seen to be divisive, racial, unsure and insecure, how can we expect investors to come here?

Just think.