Government urged to postpone Ethnic Relations module, groups cited transparency issue

Civil society groups disagreed with government's approval of the the new Ethnic Relation module without calling for public participation in the drafting process. The module should be given another two months in order for the public to fill in the vacumm, the groups urged in their joint statement.



Joint Statement: Transparency and Participation Absent in Drafting Process; give two more months before finalizing Ethnic Relation Module

We the undersigning organizations call upon the Cabinet to postpone for two months the finalization of the Ethnic Relations Module so that the public input may be incorporated. It is most regrettable that the Cabinet has approved the module without first publishing on the Higher Education Ministry website for public feedback as promised earlier by the Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed.

The drafting process should have been a golden opportunity of conversations amongst all Malaysian on how we should interpret our history, define our present and chart our future, in conjunction with the celebration of 50 years of independence. The issue is therefore not about the removal of particular controversial contents. We are also not questioning the integrity or the ability of the scholars drafting it. It is a question of principle: how can it succeed to promote understandings and appreciation of our plural society if it is designed without adequate efforts to welcome differences and build consensus?

We disagree with the Minister's statement that valid views can be incorporated in the next edition. Why the rush when this course will only be introduced in next July? If there are serious flaws, should it not be corrected first? If the module is widely acceptable, then genuine public consultation for two months will only enhance its legitimacy and stir more interests and supports. Academic work must stand up to public scrutiny. Forcing it down the throats of students and society is the greatest disservice to the efforts by the drafting committee.

While the ministry claims to have "rigorous consultation" with "various parties, including academics, corporate players and political parties", the fact is that the general public is kept in the dark until the release of the module yesterday. If the Cabinet considers that BN parties and the few individuals and groups they selected to be consulted represent the nation, then the module will be seen as a tool of indoctrination for the ruling coalition. It will divide rather than unite the nation.

We hold as a principle that public policies, legislations and guidelines should be formulated with the participation and consultation of all stakeholders. Citizens have the right to know what would affect their lives and interests and to demand that their legitimate concerns be taken on board. This is why civil society has relentlessly called for a Freedom of Information Act.

Endorsing Groups:

  1. Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
  2. Malaysian Voters Union (MALVU)
  3. Save OurSelves Penang (SOS)
  4. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  5. Persatuan Alumni PBTUSM(LIHUA) Selangor & KL
  6. Women Development Collective (WDC)
  7. Group of Concerned Citizens (GCC)
  8. Monitoring Sustainabiliy of Globalisation (MSN)
  9. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
  10. Malaysian Youth and Democratic Movement (DEMA)
  11. Civil Rights Committee, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH)
  12. Youth Section, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
  13. Tamil Foundation
  14. ALIRAN
  15. Research for Social Advancement (REFSA).
  16. Jemaah Islah Malaysia (JIM)

This signature campaign is initiated by Writers Alliance Media Independence (WAMI).

Issued by

Mr Wong Chin Huat,
Writers Alliance Media Independence (WAMI)

WAMI is a group of writers for the Chinese media in Malaysia, which aims to defend and promote media independence for freer public discussion and wider democratic space.

It was formed by about 90 writers who quitted writing for the mainstream Chinese media in May 2001, in protest of the coerced takeover of the non-partisan Nanyang Press by the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a ruling coalition member party.

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