Wednesday, February 12, 2014

‘Curb hate crimes or get booted out’

PETALING JAYA: “Condemn violence or see yourself booted out” – this is the message growing louder among Malaysian civil society in the face of the government’s apparently lax stance towards “perpetrators of hate”.

In two weeks, an online petition denouncing violence and advocating peaceful dialogue gained over 700 signatures, against the backdrop of racially-charged protests and threats that have recently taken place across Malaysia.
“If we get a million signatures, the government will sit up and take note. It will tell political parties and the federal government that they won’t be supported in the next general election if they don’t take a tough stand against hate crimes, statements and actions,” said Ramon Navaratnam of the National Unity Consultative Council.

Navaratnam, who is also director of the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI) and chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Studies, said the government’s soft stance would blow up in their face and destroy the unity that had been built up over the years.
Last week, a group of Muslim NGOs offered a RM500 cash reward for anyone who slaps Seputeh MP and DAP leader Teresa Kok. The offer was quickly increased to RM1,200.
The protesters had also slaughtered chickens and smeared blood on a poster of Kok and several other DAP leaders. The poster had the words ‘Chauvinistic Chinese of Kangkung descent’ written in Malay.
‘Public has a role to play as well’
Despite public uproar and police reports lodged against the NGOs, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi brushed the matter aside, saying it was not a threat and need not be investigated.
“The government must take serious and severe action and go all out to investigate and find the perpetrators of hate and bring them to book. Charge them in court,” said Navaratnam. “It cannot afford to be soft on these matters.
“It can blow up in our faces and destroy a great deal of what we have built over the years. The public too has a role to play in spreading this message, both to leaders and among one another,” he said.
“If we take a lax attitude, show indifference and remain silent, we will condemn ourselves in the long run. The silent majority must speak up or lose out to the extremists whose influence seems to be growing and who are becoming more daring and disrespectful to government and its leaders and all true Malaysians,” added Navaratnam.
Navaratnam said all hate crimes should be considered ‘najis’, and urged religious leaders to come out and condemn such acts, be it in mosques, temples or churches.
“They should pass on the message very strongly that god does not tolerate these kinds of sinful statements.”
Meanwhile, Jayanath Appudurai of Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia said people should do all they can to remind the government that its role was to govern on behalf of the people, and not turn a blind eye to threats by certain groups.
“Any initiative from whatever quarter will go a long way. The government will eventually pay attention to this petition because any unhappiness expressed by the people will translate into less votes,” he said.
“We have to remind the government that it is time to take care of all people and act based on principles of good governance and stewardship, and to move away from politicking.”
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