Press Statement by Karpal Singh in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, 21st January 2009:

Government flip-flop over Race Relations Act 

I am shocked that the cabinet has decided to make a complete reversal of its earlier decision to have a Race Relations Act.

There is no doubt that in a multi racial society like ours, it is imperative to have a Race Relation Act. The cabinet should not easily reverse decisions made. The cabinet must be firm in the decisions made collectively.

Unity, Culture, Arts & Heritage Minister, Shafie Apdal said there had been exhaustive discussions within the cabinet and the representatives of all communities. Surely, the cabinet ought to have made an indepth study of the need to have a Race Relations Act before it made public its decision to enact a Race Relations Act in the coming meeting of Parliament commencing 16th February, 2009. The government ought to have had a referendum to decide whether there is a necessity for a Race Relations Act. At the least, the opposition ought to have been consulted before the cabinet decided to reverse its earlier decision.

The Race Relations Bill could well have been tabled in Parliament and before any decision was made, the Bill could have been referred to a Select Committee to enable Members of Parliament both in the opposition and in the government to exhaustively decide on the need to have the Bill. The government should not forget the opposition, unlike in the past, adds up to 84 members. The opposition should not be ignored. It is now a force to be reckoned with. The victory of the Pakatan Rakyat in Kuala Terengganu by-election clearly shows that the Barisan Nasional is on the decline.

The government should have modeled the Race Relations Act on the United Kingdom Race Relations Act, 1976 which is an Act to make provision with respect of discrimination on racial grounds and between people of different racial groups, inter-alia, in employment and other forms of discrimination.

Unlike in the past, the United Kingdom includes, in a population of 50.46 million, 5.5 million non-Whites according to the census taken in 2005. In Malaysia, on the other hand, in a population of 27.7 million there are 9.7 million non-Bumiputras as of September, 2008.

There can be no doubt there is discrimination in Malaysia in point of jobs in the government and the private sector it is towards this end, there is a requirement principally of a Race Relations Act in addition to other forms of discrimination against citizens as is the position in Britain.

The reasons given by Shafie Apdal although some people who were a threat to peace, the government do not see the urgency to introducing such an Act. It is shocking that he states.

‘The 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.’

I call upon the government to reconsider, in the public interest, its decision to decline tabling the Race Relations Bill in the coming meeting of Parliament. The cabinet should be firm in decisions it makes. A cabinet which is indecisive has no right to carry on in ruling the country.

* Karpal Singh, DAP National Chairman & MP for Bukit Gelugor