Grappling with gender, race and religion

I TOOK some weeks off to see how the Pakatan Harapan government was coming to grips with power and I must say, it suits them well enough despite the initial hiccups.

That being said, the first sign of friction over appointments in the new government was not over whether or not Tommy Thomas being a non-Malay, non-Muslim could become attorney-general.

A question came up earlier with the appointment of Lim Guan Eng as finance minister. If the Straits Times from Singapore is to be believed, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah objected to the appointment because the minister "needs to be a Malay".

The second sign that this issue would come up was when Hindraf 2.0 asked for places in UiTM and Felda to be offered to the Indian community. Now, this is a tricky one. Apparently, Hindraf and Hindraf 2.0 are different entities. And you also have Makkal Shakti, the MIC and the Indian Progressive Front.

I have no idea how many more organisations represent the Indians.

Again, this triggered another outbreak of detractions from UiTM and its large alumni. For myself as an alumni member, I'm still wondering why we would open up the university to foreign students to meet ranking standards before admitting Malaysian citizens of other racial descent.

And now, on news that the King and the Council of Rulers had reservations about the AG's race and religion. To their credit they also brought up their preference for someone with judicial experience.

But here we come up to the more than 60-year-old issue that everybody wants to change, but nobody wants to change themselves to accommodate it.

Do we want to remove the privileges, special treatment and segregationist policies based on race and religion?

Bear in mind, this won't just be about opening up the bumiputra university, or even giving Mara loans to everyone. It would also mean abandoning the UEC certification, ending all vernacular schools and integrating all of these into one school system.

I include religious schools under vernacular schools. Thus, a total reformation of the education system without segregation by race and religion. No more Chinese or Tamil schools, no more Islamic schools, as this will also be absorbed into the national school system and be open to everyone.

It will be either a national public school or a private school as well as either a public university or a private university.

Can this be done? Would everyone accept it? Why or why not?

The argument against abolishing Tamil and Chinese schools is that they aren't racially exclusive. Well, fine. Then they should not have any problem being absorbed into the national school system.

If it is about language, then have language classes in national schools. If it is about syllabus, then update the national school syllabus and see if there can be similar results nationwide.

If it is about salaries and support, then call for a review to match the salaries, and for the government to give the equivalent amount of support.

Thus, there should be no objections in achieving such equity in the school system.

At the same time, racist and religious discrimination should be taken out of the working world as well as the property market. No more bumiputra discounts, and no more racial preference in renting out properties.

This is a lot harder when it comes to the fact that it will then be more of a covert discrimination which would require people to then entrap would-be property owners and future employers to show racial preference and discrimination.

But let's face it, there is an underbelly of racism when we talk of employment and even renting out a property, or even an office for that matter. It is easier to look at the racial discrimination of listed companies if there was a requirement to show a diversity report on every level of their human resources.

Now we come to the issue of merit over gender, an issue highlighted by a quote from Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz: "No matter the gender, go for the merit".

Sadly, this raises a question. Half of our population are women. Yet, women make up close to 30% of corporate Malaysia.

And in that three out of every 10 Malaysians, we cannot find a similar ratio of women with merit in the workforce? Or is it the sinister fact that women are looked down upon and discriminated against for long maternity leave requests, as we saw earlier this year with the Malaysian Employers Federation?

With that, we must go back to addressing the three elephants in the room – gender, religion, and race. This will take more than just a change of government and a donation drive, I'm afraid – it requires a renaissance.

The writer is a public relations practitioner. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com