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Saturday, 25 January 2014

Malaysia needs a Mandela to break out racial politics’

FZBy vichitra | FZ

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 22): Malaysia needs a leader like Nelson Mandela to turn the country away from an overdose of politics based on race and religion, said the chairman of the Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) Tan Sri Simon Sipaun.

The world-famous icon of resistance against the apartheid regime of South Africa had no tolerance for racial discrimination, and was resolute in his principles even when he had to speak against the popular view, said Simon. These are his important legacies for Malaysian leaders.

Simon said that Mandela's leadership style would not tolerate discrimination based on race and religion and he was also against black supremacy. "Unlike Umno, the backbone of the BN (Barisan Nasional) government that promotes Malay supremacy," he said.

"Mandela’s type of leadership and sense of justice would not allow such a situation to happen. Malaysia, in my view, needs a Mandela. It is time for this country to turn away from the overdose of politics based on race and religion," he said at a roundtable discussion on Nelson Mandela's legacy on Monday night.

Simon, who was born in North Borneo 25 years before Malaysia was formed, said that he did not expect that Malaysia would become a country that promotes "Ketuanan Melayu" (Malay supremacy), and in which the majority race can claim superiority over other races.

"Even though the Federal Constitution provides for the special position of the majority race, there was no such thing in North Borneo. If this is not institutionalised racism, I don't know what is," Simon said, adding that he wished there were a Nelson Mandela among the founding fathers who drafted the Federal Constitution.

Without mincing his words, Simon said the Orang Asli were subjected to a system akin to the apartheid policy implemented in the South Africa in 1947.

He said that the Orang Asli were marginalised, and the main objective of the Orang Asli Development Department was to assimilate the Orang Asli into the Malay community through conversion to Islam.

Simon also pointed out that Malaysia needed "Malaysian leaders, not leaders for the Chinese, Malays, Indians or minorities, or else we will be continue to compartialised."
Mandela passed away on Dec 5, 2013. He was the first black President of South Africa, and was jailed for 27 years on the infamous Robben Island for his ideals.

At the roundtable, the South African High Commissioner Thami Mseleku said that Mandela was a resolute leader who would uphold his principles, and speak against the popular view.

For example, he said, Mandela went against all his colleagues' wishes to talk alone with the government and did not reveal the content of the meetings.

Also, he was a leader with compassion who remembered every person he met.
And above all, Mseleku said, the greatest legacy he left was democracy in South Africa in which everyone was free to say anything about his legacy, to agree or disagree, and nobody would be jailed for criticising Mandela.

Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, chairman of the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) said that the revolutionary Mandela had inspired him to join politics.
He felt that Mandela had followed Prophet Mohammad's footsteps through his humility, and by forgiving his enemies.

Saifuddin said that Mandela showed a leadership style that dared to be different from the majority, while most of the leaders we have would not go against their colleagues who are on a different page.
He cited an example in which Mandela used rugby, the white man's game, to unite the people. The example was showcased in the movie Invictus.

"In Malaysia, we have basketball, predominantly played by Chinese, and the Chinese hold the economy. I am not being racist here, just stating a fact. We can’t even make basketball a compulsory event in Sukan Malaysia," he said.

He stressed that the Ministry of Youth and Sports could follow Mandela's footsteps to use sports as a platform for unity. "If he can use rugby, why can't we use basketball?"

The roundtable entitled “Legacy of Nelson Mandela: Teaching People to Love One Another,” was jointly organised by Proham and GMM.

The other speaker was Prof KS Nathan who used a global perspective to look at Mandela's struggle to end the apartheid policy.

The discussion was moderated by Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, secretary-general of Proham. About 30 people attended the discussion.

 – Wed, Jan 22, 2014

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