PETALING JAYA: A member of the practically defunct National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) has attributed its failure to the Barisan Nasional establishment’s reluctance to exercise the political will to push for adoption of its proposals.
Parit Buntar MP Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the only opposition politician in the council when it made the proposals, said there was especially strong opposition to a proposed law to ensure equal opportunities for all Malaysians.
The NUCC was formed on Sept 11, 2013 in the wake of GE13 as part of an effort towards national reconciliation amid fears of extreme racial polarisation. Mujahid co-chaired its Law and Policy Committee.
Speaking to FMT, he said the NUCC held a series of consultations with various political parties and civic groups and found one binding theme: Malaysians, regardless of race, religion and the region they came from, were most concerned about racial and religious relations.
He said the council developed proposals to address the root causes of racial and religious disunity.
“We drafted a bill seeking to criminalise hate speech, specifically hate speeches against races and religions,” he said. “This would see heavy punishments of up to three years’ jail and a RM50,000 fine.”
He said the plan was to have a law to replace the Sedition Act.
The council also recommended the drafting of a bill guaranteeing equal opportunities for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, gender, age and sexual orientation.
“Essentially, it would be an anti-discrimination bill,” he said. “The first stumbling block we faced was on equality regardless of sexual orientation. So we decided to remove the sexual orientation provision from the proposal.”
However, he added, this was deemed insufficient by Malay conservatives and some political parties. “They saw the bill as challenging Bumiputera rights and going against Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.”
Article 153 entrusts the Yang di-Pertuan Agong with the responsibility of safeguarding the special position of the Malays and natives of the states of Sabah and Sarawak as well as the legitimate interests of other communities.
“It was really a setback for the country that we did not accomplish what we set out to do,” Mujahid said. “It was evident that many were still not ready to take the bull by the horns when it came to racial and religious issues.”
Mujahid said he believed Prime Minister Najib Razak, who launched the NUCC, knew that there were serious problems with race and religious relations in the country.
He speculated that it was pressure from within Umno that prevented Najib from pushing the proposals through.
He said the rejection of the council and its proposals was an effect of decades of racial politics.
“The truth is that we just cannot go on like this,” he added. “The government must have the political will to move beyond racial politics.”