Walk the talk to fight racism
Writer: Lee Choon Fai
Published: Fri, 21 Sep 2012
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians must first walk the talk in the fight against racism in order to break free from the vicious cycle of racial discrimination and race-based politics.
Children giving a performance about racism, security, the destruction of natural rainforests and where Malaysia stands as a nation.
Speaking at the Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM) Malaysia Day Celebration on Sunday (Sept 16) night, Subang Jaya state assemblyperson Hannah Yeoh recounted her experience of attempting to register her child as “Malaysian” in 2011.
“I despise racism and I joined politics to do something about it. So when my child was born, my husband and I decided we should walk the talk as well in our private life.
“This is a chance to do something for our future generations, we can’t change what has happened many years in the past but we can change the future,” said Yeoh during the celebration’s dialogue and sharing session in Bukit Damansara.
After consulting with SABM coordinator and lawyer-activist Haris Ibrahim, Yeoh and her husband decided to register their child as “Malaysian” on her birth certificate.
However, this was met with complications in the National Registration Department (NRD) as the clerk informed the couple that the registry system simply cannot accept anything besides Malay, Chinese, Indian, and others.
“The clerk told us that the system is incapable of processing anything other than the four boxes, we insisted that she be a ‘Malaysian’ but at the end of the day we had to settle for Chinese,” said Yeoh.
To make things worse, her genuine effort was met with public outcry, misunderstood as an attempt to politicise the birth of her daughter by even her own supporters.
Yeoh’s family was deeply affected by the episode and she started doubting whether they had done the right thing when she suffered from depression.
“It was a very challenging time for us, but thanks to some of our friends and supporters who were with us all the way, we pulled through,” she said.
After the storm of public criticism, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the Home Affairs Ministry (KDN) told the family that the child’s birth certificate can be appealed.
Yeoh’s husband then personally filed for appeal at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the KDN, and the NRD immediately.
“But until today, my daughter is already 15 months old, we have not received a response from all three departments,” she said.
Yeoh also pointed out that the term “Dan lain-lain” used in many registration forms is very degrading and that the national registry may be filled with inaccuracies due to generalisation.
Coincidentally, the SABM Malaysia Day Celebration was also themed “Dan lain-lain” to highlight the divisiveness among Malaysians.
“Malaysians are very segregated, we all love this categorising, all of us treat each other as ‘others’ with an ‘us against them’ mentality,” said SABM core member A Jayanath.
He said there is no basis for this divisiveness as all human beings are proven to have 99 per cent similarity in our DNA.
“Ninety-nine per cent of our DNA is the same, with the remaining one per cent for individual identity, not on race. There is no such thing as ‘race’, we are all Malaysians,” said Jayanath.
He also referred to scientific studies that showed the entire human race to have originated from one single source in what is now the African continent.
“We should all look inwards and see that we all came from the same place, so why discriminate?” said Jayanath.
The event, which was attended by some 100 members of the community, was organised to bring the local community together and spread the message that all human beings are born equal.
To hammer their point home, a video interview of Malaysian political scientist and historian Farish A Noor by online news portal Malaysiakini was screened.
Farish noted that during the pre-British colonial era in the Malayan peninsular, people of various cultural backgrounds mingled together in harmony.
It was only until the British arrived that the concept of “race” was introduced to the local populace.
The New Economic Policy (NEP) which followed the 1969 riots was created with unity in mind, but was corrupted by greed and power and used to further divide Malaysians.
“Malaysia as a nation state is an empty concept due to divisiveness, made worse by politicians from both sides.
“They may have slogans like 1Malaysia and Malaysian Malaysia, but how many of them actually live and breathe as a Malaysian first?” said Farish in the video.