PETALING JAYA: Racial discrimination in Malaysia remains high despite ongoing efforts by the government to promote moderation and racial harmony within the country.
Malaysia's Racial Discrimination Report 2016, compiled and prepared by non-profit social outfit, Pusat Komas, concluded that incidences of racial discrimination in Malaysia continued to rise last year.
According to the report, discrimination based on ethnicity in education, healthcare, finance, workforce and welfare continued on an upward trend.
"In 2016, incidences of racial discrimination reared its ugly head most prominently during elections.
"Religious moral policing has also increased and become more rampant. This has caused a greater rift between the Muslims and non-Muslims," said the report.
Among the recommendations made by Pusat Komas include urging the government to immediately sign and ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) under the United Nations.
It also recommended for harsher punishments for individuals, especially politicians, who issue racial statements.
The emergence of the internet and social media, it said, had also led to the widespread expression of racial sentiments and hate speech, giving room for negative sentiments to be propagated.
"In 2013 the Malaysian government, recognising the seriousness of racial discrimination, initiated the setting up of the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC).
The Racial Discrimination Report was released tonight and followed by a forum on the issue which featured former Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, G25 leader Datuk Noor Farida Arifin and former MCA vice-president Gan Ping Sieu, among others.
Noor Farida during the programme said the first step in promoting racial harmony is through education, where national schools shouldn’t be separated according to the vernacular system.
"I'm all for the one-school system. I don't think we should encourage the existence of vernacular schools. If the children are going to be Malaysian, they should study and play together.
"In a multiracial country, we cannot have a situation where one race is imposing their moral values.
"There must be racial tolerance and respect among the people. We really need to make effort in promoting racial tolerance in the country," she said.
Aside from the NUCC, the prime minister during last year's Budget 2017 had also announced the country's 30-year transformation plan, the National Transformation (TN50).
Among the agendas of TN50 as announced by Najib include raising awareness among Malaysians on racism.
This he said, can be achieved by setting aside negative elements resulting from differences of opinions due to racial and religious diversity in a bid to empower Malaysia to become one of the top 20 nations in the world.