Asean needs to protect its minority communities’

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KUALA LUMPUR: Asean needs to commit itself and act to protect minority communities, say politician Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker (pic) and lawyer-cum-activist Siti Kasim.

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Ti, who is MCA vice-president, said Asean needs to look into discriminatory laws that contributed to stateless citizens.

The Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity (Maju) founder Siti urged the Asean community to draft a social charter enshrining the values of regional diversity.

Based on a report by the Asean Post, there are some 938,000 stateless people in Myanmar, 443,862 people in Thailand, 11,689 people in Malaysia and 11,000 people in Vietnam, said Ti.

They have limited access to healthcare, education opportunities, legal employment and freedom of movement, he said.

“We can talk about protecting religious and ethnic diversity, but nothing is going to change unless the respective governments in Asean and Asean as a whole, has the political will to actually deal with it,” said Ti during the International Conference on Nation-Building 2019 on Wednesday (Nov 27).

In the session “Managing the tension of race, religion and politics to harness nation-building”, Ti said the unwillingness to compromise was one of the reasons that religious and ethnic conflicts occur.

He said Asean needs to commit itself to mutual respect to ensure the stability of the region and to protect minority communities.

“Governments need to be absolutely impartial in this endeavour to ensure that the people of Asean, regardless of their religions and ethnicities, need to feel safe and dignified even if they are minorities.

“We need to remember that many stateless citizens are victims of their circumstances and they should not be denied their human rights just because of their differences,” he said.

Ti said that despite the non-interference principle, Asean needs to make a stand when lives are at stake.

“We need to put our diplomatic concerns and commitment to protect lives on an equal scale.

“Besides that, Asean should condemn any form of violence that derives from a clash of ethnic and religious difference,” he added.

He said people need to change their mindset, keep the communication going and be fearless in breaking barriers.

Meanwhile, Siti said that a social charter would make it harder for governments to perpetuate or fuel communal tensions through inaction and impunity.

“We need to emphasise that ours is a shared human heritage. They are not different but they are varied. They are of us. We are richer because of it,” she said.

She said that governments were shying away from confronting extremist views.

In Malaysia, for instance, the previous and current government retreated behind Islamic fervour to ensure their political survival and Malay ethnonationalism was not only still vigorous, but has acquired an Islamic tone that assumes moral authority in inter-ethnic affairs, she said.

“Under a new wave of Islamisation, politicians, finance, and classrooms are increasingly appealing to Islamic principles despite ethnic diversity. Islam rather than secular law, has become the primary political and legal framework.

“For the non-Muslims, the increased implementation of Islamisation in the political, social and cultural life has gradually affected their livelihood while the implementation of Shariah law, especially in divorce and religious conversion cases, has also affected non-Muslim communities.

“In order to protect the balance between tolerance and identity that has long helped South-East Asia modernise peacefully in a traditional setting, some careful policymaking is needed.

“Instead of building ramparts to defend religious identity, dialogue should be intensified at both national and community levels to prevent the spread of misperceptions and rumours.

“Ultimately, there is no substitute for responsible leadership speaking out clearly on the need to protect traditions and laws that foster tolerance and moderation,” she said.

-Advertisement-

Ti, who is MCA vice-president, said Asean needs to look into discriminatory laws that contributed to stateless citizens.

The Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity (Maju) founder Siti urged the Asean community to draft a social charter enshrining the values of regional diversity.

Based on a report by the Asean Post, there are some 938,000 stateless people in Myanmar, 443,862 people in Thailand, 11,689 people in Malaysia and 11,000 people in Vietnam, said Ti.

They have limited access to healthcare, education opportunities, legal employment and freedom of movement, he said.

“We can talk about protecting religious and ethnic diversity, but nothing is going to change unless the respective governments in Asean and Asean as a whole, has the political will to actually deal with it,” said Ti during the International Conference on Nation-Building 2019 on Wednesday (Nov 27).

In the session “Managing the tension of race, religion and politics to harness nation-building”, Ti said the unwillingness to compromise was one of the reasons that religious and ethnic conflicts occur.

He said Asean needs to commit itself to mutual respect to ensure the stability of the region and to protect minority communities.

“Governments need to be absolutely impartial in this endeavour to ensure that the people of Asean, regardless of their religions and ethnicities, need to feel safe and dignified even if they are minorities.

“We need to remember that many stateless citizens are victims of their circumstances and they should not be denied their human rights just because of their differences,” he said.

Ti said that despite the non-interference principle, Asean needs to make a stand when lives are at stake.

“We need to put our diplomatic concerns and commitment to protect lives on an equal scale.

“Besides that, Asean should condemn any form of violence that derives from a clash of ethnic and religious difference,” he added.

He said people need to change their mindset, keep the communication going and be fearless in breaking barriers.

Meanwhile, Siti said that a social charter would make it harder for governments to perpetuate or fuel communal tensions through inaction and impunity.

“We need to emphasise that ours is a shared human heritage. They are not different but they are varied. They are of us. We are richer because of it,” she said.

She said that governments were shying away from confronting extremist views.

In Malaysia, for instance, the previous and current government retreated behind Islamic fervour to ensure their political survival and Malay ethnonationalism was not only still vigorous, but has acquired an Islamic tone that assumes moral authority in inter-ethnic affairs, she said.

“Under a new wave of Islamisation, politicians, finance, and classrooms are increasingly appealing to Islamic principles despite ethnic diversity. Islam rather than secular law, has become the primary political and legal framework.

“For the non-Muslims, the increased implementation of Islamisation in the political, social and cultural life has gradually affected their livelihood while the implementation of Shariah law, especially in divorce and religious conversion cases, has also affected non-Muslim communities.

“In order to protect the balance between tolerance and identity that has long helped South-East Asia modernise peacefully in a traditional setting, some careful policymaking is needed.

“Instead of building ramparts to defend religious identity, dialogue should be intensified at both national and community levels to prevent the spread of misperceptions and rumours.

“Ultimately, there is no substitute for responsible leadership speaking out clearly on the need to protect traditions and laws that foster tolerance and moderation,” she said. -The Star


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