KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday that his government will not stand for racial extremism, and called for greater cooperation between Malaysians of different races to ensure a better future for the country.
“The Malays cannot do it alone, the Chinese cannot do it alone. We must do it together in one political union called Barisan Nasional,” he said, referring to the ruling coalition of which he is chairman.
Speaking at the opening of the Malaysian Chinese Association’s (MCA) annual general assembly, he said the BN formula based on the principles of moderation was the best for a Malaysia which had various races, religions and cultures.
Racial ties in Malaysia have been strained following two large rallies in Kuala Lumpur. A pro-government Red Shirt rally on Sept 16 was purportedly held to uphold Malay pride in response to an earlier pro-reform Bersih 4.0 rally in late August said to be attended mostly by Chinese and Indians. Yesterday, Mr Najib criticised both rallies, but suggested that the latter was more provocative.
“What we should stress on, if you want to do a rally, do it peacefully. We allow peaceful assembly. But don’t bring banners that are racist, don’t make statements that are seditious. Don’t hurt the feelings of others. And, most importantly, don’t insult the country’s leader,” he added, referring to the action of some yellow shirt-wearing Bersih 4.0 supporters who stomped on pictures of leaders such as Mr Najib and Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party president Abdul Hadi Awang.
Mr Najib did not previously endorse the Red Shirt rally, but had said that the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party would not prevent members from joining it.
The event involved incendiary remarks and racially charged placards, with Chinese Malaysians being called “babi” (pigs) and told to “balik Cina” (go back to China). Riot police used water cannons when protesters tried to gain access to Petaling Street, commonly known as Chinatown.
MCA is an ethnic Chinese component party of the ruling BN coalition, but its poor performance at the 2008 and 2013 general elections has left it struggling.
Speaking at the same event, MCA President Liow Tiong Lai expressed concern over increasing racial and religious tensions and called on the government to set up a national reconciliation council to forge unity among the people.
“A comprehensive solution must be implemented. There is no time to waste,” he said, noting that recent incidents, such as calls to abolish Chinese schools and threats to slap the Chinese, showed that hatred was growing at an alarming pace.
Calls to end vernacular education resurfaced recently after the Red Shirt protesters demanded the government abolish Chinese and Tamil schools, which they claimed to promote “racist” tendencies.
Mr Najib yesterday promised that the government will continue to defend the Chinese community’s right to vernacular education. AGENCIES