Malaysia says no to race relations law

January 21st, 2009 - 3:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Jan 21 (IANS) The Malaysian government has shot down a proposal for a race relations law after a study revealed that the people do not favour enforcing better racial ties through law, a media report said Wednesday. Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Mohammed Shafie Apdal Tuesday said the decision came after exhaustive discussions within the cabinet and with representatives of all communities.

“A detailed study was carried out to analyse the need and relevance of the Race Relations Act. Based on the conclusions drawn from the study, the cabinet decided there was no need for such an act,” New Straits Times quoted him as saying Wednesday.

The prosperous Southeast Asian nation has 60 percent Malay Muslims forming the majority and estimated 33 percent Chinese and eight percent Indians of different religious denominations among the other major ethnic groups.

“Unity should be nurtured and not forced on people. It should be cultivated and instilled in every individual through culture and good values. It’s through the liking, the understanding of each other, through tolerance, that we can build unity rather than through law and forcing people into it,” the minister said.

He conceded that although there were “some people who were a threat to peace”, the government did not see the urgency of introducing such an act.

“Besides, existing acts such as the Internal Security Act are sufficient to handle race relations. If needed, adjustments and amendments can be made to existing laws.”

In September last year, Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai, belonging to the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a constituent of the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN), mooted the idea of a Race Relations Act.

This was after a member of parliament and a journalist, both ethnic Chinese women, and a Malay blogger were arrested for allegedly stoking racial hatred.

Subsequently, various parties stated that legislation was necessary to strengthen unity among the people through a Race Relations Act.

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