'Ban sectarian politics'
Athi Veeranggan Aug 1, 08 11:45am
Athi Veeranggan Aug 1, 08 11:45am
News and picture courtesy of Malaysiakini.com
Banning communal-based political parties, agendas and campaigns could help eliminate sectarian politics and create a Malaysian society free of racial prejudice, said an activist.
Speaking at a political forum in Penang yesterday, Citizens International director Anwar Fazal attributed deeply entrenched sectarian politics in the country to the existence of communal-based parties.
He said communal agendas and electoral campaigns over the years have also created deeply-rooted communal-based stereotypes of the various communities in the country."This has polarised our system, society and country."For a start, we could ban political entities to trigger a shift from it," the prominent civil society activist told some 100 people at the forum themed, ‘The Future of Non-Sectarian Politics in Malaysia'.
He said authorities and civil movements should take the initiative to have the country's historical, religious and cultural background documented to enable Malaysians to understand, cherish and be proud of their country's diverse heritage.Anwar also called for neighbourhood elections to cultivate self-governance."This will inspire citizens to be more aware and concerned about larger issues affecting the society rather than narrow sectarian matters," he said.
Finally, he proposed the setting up of a legal mechanism to empower state governments to secure a bigger share of revenue collected from the respective states, instead of being over-dependent on federal funds.This, he said would enable a state government to be more independent and autonomous in its financial administration, and avoid being at logger heads with the federal government over non-delivery of funds."It may take years to fully develop, but all these steps if implemented, would pave way for non-sectarian politics," said Anwar.Malaysians are ready
Earlier at the forum, the controversial book, ‘Non-Secretarian Politics in Malaysia: The Case of Parti Gerakan Malaysia' was launched. One of the book's authors, Khoo Kay Peng was the forum moderator.Organised by Trafalgar Publishing House, panellists at the forum spoke on history of non-secretarian politics, defining multi-ethnic politics and future trends of non-secretarian politics in Malaysia.
Besides Anwar, other speakers were Social Economic Research Institute (Seri) director and a Gerakan leader, Dr Toh Kin Woon and author Dr Ooi Kee Beng.Toh (right) said the general elections in March proved that Malaysians were prepared to abandon their racial beliefs for a common cause, adding that the current talks between Umno and PAS on Malay-Muslim unity was a step backward as both parties were only fighting for one race instead of the good of all Malaysians.
Ooi said it would take Herculean effort to transform Malaysians' mindset from one deeply entrenched in communal thinking and judgment, to non-sectarian thinking."For this to change it would take years. It may not occur in our lifetime."But our heritage and historical background would suggest a move to non-sectarian politics is thinkable," he said.
Read Blogger and Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi's review of the book here. Jeff was a former Gerakan member who decided to quit the party to join the struggle for better governance and justice.