Friday, 30 December 2011 07:34More lies from Najib and BN: UK's Race Relations Act not a suitable model

Written by Maclean Patrick, Malaysia Chronicle





The replacement to the Internal Security Act (ISA) which was repealed during a Malaysia Day telecast by Najib Razak, is as restrictive and binding as the ISA itself.

The Race Relations Bill (RRB) slated to be tabled in March 2012 is nothing short of a means to curtail citizens, not merely based on affiliation; like the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011, but also based on ethnicity.

The wording to the RRB is supposed to promote and support the BN’s government 1Malaysia initiative. It is a law that Najib says affirms his administration’s commitment to multi-culturalism and tolerance. To prove it, it will be modelled after existing law from Britain itself, the Najib administration claims.

Whoops! At this point, the warning signals should be blaring out loud and clear for all Malaysians. Will Najib's RRB be as similar to the UK's as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission be to the Hong Kong's ICAC, which was what the BN government also promised? Can anyone deny the huge difference in standards between the MACC and the ICAC and not worry that the BN is out to spin a new lie?

Harmony is a natural state

Unfortunately, harmony and tolerance cannot be enforced through law. A country thrives and matures under different circumstances. In fact, it is not law but freedom that promotes unity, harmony and tolerance. It is freedom to discuss, express, explore and to hold intellectual discourse that promotes understanding between peoples of different background.

If a law can promote harmony and tolerance within a society, then by right we would have many other countries implementing their own version of a Race Relations Bill. But this is not the case.

And if Britain is used a case study since the RRB will be modelled after the United Kingdom’s Race Relations Act, the circumstances for enactment of these laws are different. The UK Parliament put in place the Race Relations Act for far different reasons than the ones given by Malaysia. Furthermore, the UK's Race Relation Act 1965, 1968, 1976, Amendment Act 2000 have been replaced by the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006. Thus, the very model that Najib claims he wishes to follow may not be suitable at all for Malaysia.

The UK example

The United Kingdom’s Race Relations Act was first incorporated in 1965. The Act made it a civil offence (rather than a criminal offence) to refuse to serve a person, an unreasonable delay in serving someone, or overcharging, on the grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins. The Act did not extend to Northern Ireland, and specifically excluded shops and private boarding houses. It was "a weak piece of legislation" and failed to end racial discrimination in the UK.

The Act was strengthened with the Race Relations Act 1968, which extended the legislation's remit to cover employment and housing. It was repealed by the Race Relations Act 1976, which saw the creation of the Commission for Racial Equality. Items that are covered include discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnic and national origin in the fields of employment, the provision of goods and services, education and public functions.

The 1976 Act was later amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, notably including a statutory duty on public bodies to promote race equality, and to demonstrate that procedures to prevent race discrimination are effective. In 2006 additional legislation, the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, included the additional offence of inciting religious hatred.

The core reason for the United Kingdom’s Race Relations Act was because the UK saw an influx of economic migrants after World War II, many from the Commonwealth countries. The Museum of London states that "casual ‘colour prejudice’ was part of daily life" for many. In 1958, London saw the Notting Hill riots, and in 1963 the Bristol Bus Boycott occurred. Legislation was needed to address racial discrimination, and the Acts provided some measure of protection to migrants who were unjustly treated by virtue of their skin color or ethnic background.

Twisting the facts and blowing his own false trumpet

This is the background for the United Kingdom’s need for law to govern Race Relations. Is this the same scenario as in Malaysia? Or is Najib Razak once again twisting the facts, blowing his own trumpet to mask very sinister and even evil intentions?

In reading the letter of the United Kingdom’s Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, one cannot but notice that it makes specific mention to acts that can be deemed discriminating and emphasizes on equal treatment to all. It is very much tailored to the conditions in the UK itself, which has become a melting pot of races and cultures with high-risk of outbreak of tensions due to high and still ongoing migration.

So the notion that a Malaysian Act modelled after the UK’s version to promote harmony and tolerance in multi-cultural Malaysia seems misplaced. Unneeded even.

If such a law is meant to govern what is said or done with regards to racial issues in Malaysia, we already have sufficient legislation in place. The Sedition Act is one that comes to mind. If 'intelligent' groups like Perkasa can ask for people who grant opinions concerning the Federal Constitution be charged under the Sedition Act, why not those who fan racial issues?

Najib needs to walk his talk, not cloud the issue with new laws

As such, there is clearly no need for a Race Relations Act in Malaysia. What is needed, is for the Najib administration to clamp down on fanatical elements that are already stirring, distorting and skewing the racial harmony already in place in Malaysia. Such elements are visible in the public space. All Najib has to do is tell them to shut up or lock them up if they persist.

Given Najib's unreliable track record, why should Malaysians risk a new law that is likely to contain clauses that further crimp their personal rights and freedoms, so as to allow him to prolong his stay in power.

Malaysia Chronicle