Friday, 2 February 2007

Continuing Racial Tensions Cloud Malaysia's 50th Anniversary

From AFP - article by Sarah Stewart -Read here for more


"... 2007 should be a time for celebration in Malaysia. It marks the country’s 50th anniversary of independence from colonial ruler Britain and the birth of the multicultural nation.

But instead..... an alarming slide in race relations , along with the rising influence of Islam which has alienated ethnic Chinese and Indian citizens.

According to lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar:

“There is a general sense on the ground that things are getting out of hand. It’s causing a lot of fear and consternation and tensions are rising.

My fears are that we’ll become even MORE racially divided, the economy’s going to plunge, the Islamist aspects will become even more pronounced, and
what you’ll have is a wholesale dismantling of the rule of law.

And you’ll see a country imploding, and that’s not a very good prospect.

I think it’s embarrassing that after 50 years, we have a weaker judicial system, a weaker parliamentary system, the corruption index is lower – you name it.

So we’ll have a big parade and we’ll all be out there waving our flags as we always do, but it means very little ,I think.”

Malik, who has received death threats for his efforts to protect religious freedom in the Muslim-majority nation, takes issue with the government’s tourism-brochure portrayal of a peaceful multi-ethnic Malaysia.

As the nation prepares for a huge party on August 31, many are wondering what went wrong.

Ethnic Indian activist Waytha Moorthy recalls that during his childhood, his father used to invite friends of all religions to their home to celebrate the Hindu festival of light, Deepavali, to eat, drink and socialise.

But now currently I see my nieces and nephews, they do not have any Muslim friends, and they all complain they can’t develop a relationship with the Muslims,” he said.

Much of the unhappiness centres on positive discrimination policies introduced in 1971 to raise the status of Muslim Malays who make up 60 percent of the population against 26 percent ethnic Chinese and eight percent ethnic Indians. .... ......The big winners have been Malay entrepreneurs who cash in on an array of subsidies.

Political commentators say Malaysia must stop obsessing over how to divide the nation’s wealth, and instead focus on how to boost the economy so that ALL will benefit.

I hope that the challenges of globalisation will make all Malaysian leaders face up to the harsh truth that if we do not get our people to unite together as Malaysians, then we will all suffer,” said opposition leader Lim Kit Siang.

What is happening now in many areas – in nation building and racial and religious polarisation, and on international competitiveness – we seem to be losing steam.”

Hindus are also complaining that their right to worship is being compromised, and anger has flared over what they say is the demolition of thousands of temples over the past decade to make way for development.

..... some of the most racially charged rhetoric has been coming from the ruling party (UMNO) itself.

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