KUCHING, August 28: Sarawak Patriot Association (SPA) hopes the federal government’s plan to table a bill to curb discrimination would materialise soon as discrimination is a long-standing issue in the country that could disrupt unity and harmonious living.
“SPA hopes the government will continue to ensure the progression of the said bill,” said its chairman, Datuk John Lau.
Last month, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religion) Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa announced the government’s intention to table the Anti-Discrimination Bill either during the Parliament sitting this October or in February next year. He said the government also wanted to table the National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission Bill and the Religious and Racial Hatred Bill together with the Anti-Discrimination Bill.
Lau said discrimination occurred when people are unfairly treated because of their “race, religion, gender, age, ethnicity or physical disability”, and this is particularly worrying in Malaysia because it is a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religion country of over 31 million people.
“It has harmful effects on society and will disrupt the people’s unity and harmonious living,” he said, adding that the long arm of the law must also be able to reach social media, electronic messages and viva voce.
The apex law governing against discrimination is the Federal Constitution. Article 8 of the Federal Constitution guarantees equality before the law and non-discrimination. Article 8 (1) of the Federal Constitution states that “all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”. Article 8 (2) further states that “except as expressly authorised by the Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender”.
Article 11 of the Federal Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion. It is enshrined in the Federal Constitution that there shall be no discrimination regardless of a person’s race, religion, gender, place of birth or descent.
Lau claimed that discrimination was very common in the workplace, in both private and public sectors. He recalled there was talk before to amend the Employment Act 1955 to prohibit all forms of discrimination at the workplace.
He added that Malaysia would soon be celebrating its 61st Merdeka Day with cultural and religious diversity and the people living in harmony.
“To continue living in peace and harmony, we must all play our part and continue to respect each other. It is time to end any form of racial, religious, gender or discriminatory conflicts,” Lau said.
Citing Sarawak as a great example, he said Sarawakians had lived together in unity and harmony for many years, and the state had been praised many times for achieving racial harmony that could be emulated by other countries with diverse populations. — DayakDaily