The government is using public funds to “brainwash” people and turn Malaysians against each other, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said today after the National Civics Bureau (BTN) claimed racism can unite a race for a “good purpose”.
BY BOO SU-LYN
Tuesday June 16, 2015
05:17 PM GMT+8
KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 — The government is using public funds to “brainwash” people and turn Malaysians against each other, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said today after the National Civics Bureau (BTN) claimed racism can unite a race for a “good purpose”.
The former Malaysian Bar president also criticised the country’s leaders for using race and religion to divide Malaysians, amid rising racial and religious tension in the country that has seen Muslims recently demonstrate against a church.
“It is the rakyat’s money, all the rakyat’s money used to brainwash people, one segment of society against another,” Ambiga told Malay Mail Online in an interview here today.
“That’s why I said there has to be accountability, how they’re spending our money. They’re spending our money doing this. We’ve got to stop it,” added the lawyer who is currently president of the National Human Rights Society (Hakam).
In a set of slides uploaded on BTN’s website titled “Rasis” last March, the government agency — which runs courses for undergraduates — said racism has received a “negative connotation”, claiming that the idea is being used by certain parties to achieve their political goals and topple the government.
It claimed that the concept of “racism” had initially originated from the Islamic concept of “asabiyyah”, a positive idea that centred on brotherhood and formed social solidarity in historical Muslim civilisations.
The term “asabiyyah”, originally meaning “tribalism”, was popularised by 14th century Arab historian Ibn Khaldun to describe “social cohesion”.
At a forum last September, Ambiga accused BTN of brainwashing children and turning them into racists and bigots, leading to police reports being lodged against the former Malaysian Bar president.
The human rights activist criticised today political leaders who constantly question the citizenship of non-Malays and who fail to respect the Federal Constitution.
“Once you’re a citizen, you don’t talk about being ‘pendatang’ and migrants anymore. Once you’re a citizen, that’s it. No question,” Ambiga said.
“They shout about extremism and all that, but if they’d shown leadership, they could have stopped it a long time ago. Instead, leaders use the very troubling cocktail of race and religion to divide the people, and it’s years and years of brainwashing that we now have to reverse,” she added.
A senior BTN official caused an uproar back in 2010 when word leaked that he had used derogatory terms, “si mata sepet” and “si botol” — Malay for slit-eyed and alcoholic respectively — at a closed-door Puteri Umno gathering to describe the Chinese and Indians respectively.