YOUTH at a Barisan Nasional-sponsored townhall last night demanded an end to racial politics even as the coalition’s senior leaders continue to play the race card to fish for support.
The audience at the Transformasi Nasional 50 session in Shah Alam, many of whom were BN supporters, wanted their elders to instead work on crafting a unified national identity.
The youth are demanding this while the BN seniors go at the opposition by jibing at the ethnic ancestry of its leaders, and offer Bumiputera status to select communities.
It is unclear if the demands, which were to be communicated to the Najib administration, would receive serious consideration.
Thinalan Rajagopalu of MIC Youth said it was wrong of the country’s leaders to use race to win votes. He advocated a culture of politics that would take care of all communities.
“We should use our politics to unite us. I disagree that it is our vernacular schools that are causing disunity. It’s our politicians who divide us,” said Thinalan, who was a member of the TN50 panel at the Karangkraf complex in Shah Alam last night.
TN50 is an initiative by the Najib administration to get the youth involved in policy planning for the next 33 years.
The townhalls allow participants to tell the government what they want for Malaysia by the year 2050.
The first of the TN50 series of townhalls on politics last night featured panelists from BN Youth and Pakatan Harapan. Besides MIC, BN was represented by Shahril Hamdan of Umno Youth.
PKR Youth deputy chief Dr Afif Bahardin and Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim were the panelists from Pakatan.
Like in other TN50 sessions, most of the two hours went to collecting the feedback or “aspirations” of the thousand-strong audience.
The majority echoed Subki Idris and wanted the politicians to make Malaysia feel like home to every citizen regardless of creed, community or gender.
“The diversity of the future is unimaginable as Malaysians marry between races and their children learn different languages and may or may not be tied to a culture description given to them. So politicians must plan for this,” said Subki.
A member of the audience, who wished to be identified as Devan, said Malaysian politicians were still trapped in the old mindset of playing to communal fears for votes.
“We need leaders who can represent all races. Why are we still seeing racial incitement and why is there nothing done about it?”
Four days before the dialogue, BN deputy chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was heavily criticised for bringing up and using the Indian heritage of Pakatan chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad to attack him.
Critics have also questioned BN’s motivation in offering Bumiputera status to the Indian Muslim community.
PKR’s Afif said that there should not be an more second class citizens in Malaysia as the Constitution has already protected the Malays, the national language and the status of Islam.
“Which is why we want to bring a politics that is based on need rather than race, as inequality exists among all communities.”
Shahril of Umno Youth said while the audience may support multi-racial politics now, the true test will be when they are confronted with racism in real life.
“We can be brave in forums but ask yourselves, if your parents or friends say something racist in the future, will you chide them for it?”
“It is easy for Malaysians to have a common national identity when we go overseas but we have yet to forge a common identity which we use among ourselves.”
Sim of DAP said while these demands were good, what mattered in the end was whether senior BN leaders took them seriously.
“Despite our political differences, what we want in the end is an end to racial politics and more mature politics. But we need more senior BN leaders present when we hold such townhall sessions.”