Saturday 11 June 2011

Kit Siang, Soi Lek agree race column outdated

By Melissa Chi - Malaysianinsider

KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — Political foes Lim Kit Siang and Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek have unanimously agreed race columns should no longer exist on identification papers such as birth certificates and identity cards (IC).

The DAP parliamentary leader said he does not see any reason for the race column to remain.

“It has been more than half a century, we should all be Malaysians, in line with the 1 Malaysia concept,” Lim told The Malaysian Insider.

As for data collection purposes, he said that can be done through census.

“I think we should move towards regarding everyone as Malaysians... (Racial classification) should be a secondary purpose instead of the overbearing objective,” the Ipoh Timur MP said.

MCA president Dr Chua saw eye to eye with the veteran opposition leader on this sensitive issue.
“A lot of Malaysians feel that race is no more important,” he said, although he acknowledged that there might be some problems with data collection on ethnic population.

“Data collection is still important in any country but somewhere along the lines on how to do these collection — it will take some time because we are so used to profiling people along racial lines — a lot of people might not be happy if they were not identified according to their race. We have to slowly educate people to think along the ‘Malaysian’ lines,” he said.

The issue was brought up by Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh and her husband, an Indian Malaysian, who wanted to register their new-born daughter as an “anak Malaysia” but was not allowed by the National Registration Department (NRD).

The racial classification issue had sparked heated debates in the micro-blogging site Twitter as well as on Facebook and blogs.

Currently, the race column on the birth certificate is blank and although it does not have a written list of acceptable races, the generally acceptable ones are Malay, Chinese, Indian, Orang Asli, Kadazan/ Dusun, Melanau, Murut, Bajau, Bidayuh, Iban, Orang Ulu, Bumiputra Sabah and Bumiputra Sarawak.

DAP’s Teresa Kok said abolishing the race column from all government forms will be seen as a test to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s sincerity in implementing his “1 Malaysia” policy.

“The National Registration Department’s (NRD) refusal to allow ADUN Subang Jaya Hannah Yeoh and her husband Ramachandran Muniandy to register their daughter as an ‘anak Malaysia’ proves yet again that Prime Minister Najib’s supposedly inclusive 1 Malaysia is mere political propaganda with no substance whatsoever.

“For all Najib’s extravagant 1 Malaysia advertising and logos liberally plastered all over government uniforms, government buildings and election freebies, it is all meaningless because when it comes to actual policy, Najib does not practise what he preaches which is a united Malaysia where all Malaysian are equal,” she said in a statement.

The Seputeh MP said the race labels deny the people from “self-identifying” themselves and each other as being simply Malaysian for “their selfish political expediency”.

PAS’s Datuk Kamaruddin Jaafar on the other hand, chose middle ground on this issue, and said instead that both options should be studied thoroughly to see what the purpose of the race column is, as well as the implications if it was taken out.

“On the race thing, there is no simple direct answer because race designation is part of the constitution which has components or sections which refer to race, so it is therefore not the end of the matter by just deleting them in birth certificates.

“The whole package regarding how to treat races in Malaysia need to be looked at...if we want to delete the race column at the birth certificate level, it won’t end there. The intricacy is with the constitution itself — some section of the constitution cannot even be discussed,” he said.

The Tumpat MP commended Yeoh for challenging the issue but stressed that the government has to look at the more underlying factor of this issue.

PKR’s Fuziah Salleh however, disagreed with the proposal and said the race column serves a purpose and that one should be proud to be a Malaysian but at the same time acknowledge one’s race.

“It is the identity to the ethnicity because you cannot forget your roots but on the other hand, we have to be careful not to be racist. I think it is okay the way I see it, it is to relate to our ethnicity, we should be able to identify our roots, with our roots, come our culture, our upbringing. It is something to be identified with because someone without ethnicity or identity is someone without history,” the Kuantan MP told The Malaysian Insider.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Mustapha Mohamed also agreed with Fuziah, saying that the race column should remain for data collection purposes.

Information Deputy Minister  Datuk Heng Seai Kie agreed as well, and saw the debate as one with a political agenda.

“In the first place, I don’t agree anybody for their political agenda to undo whatever rights that has been given to all the races in the country and protected under the federal constitution. What’s wrong to be proud of being a Malaysian Chinese.

“This is ridiculous and I don’t see the point because what we are fighting for is equal rights — when we apply for a tender or for IPT or IPTA (education scholarships), maybe we can do away with that but for birth certificate or IC to me is no problem at all,” she said.

The MCA information chief cited the federal constitution which states that a child’s race should go according to the father’s, in the case of mix marriages.

Malaysia is not alone in the debate as the United States of America has also struggled with a similar problem.
According to The New York Times, by the 1970s, Americans were expected to designate themselves as members of one officially recognised racial group: black, white, American Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Korean or “other,” an option used frequently by people of Hispanic origin.

Starting with the 2000 census, Americans were allowed to mark one or more races.

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