DAP calls on Cabinet to drop the retrogressive step of including reference of religion in the identity card as it is turning the clock back after 42 years of  nation-building

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): Although the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi said yesterday that there are no hidden motives and  no attempts to discriminate against any group in the Government's decision to include religion in new identity cards, this is clearly a retrogressive step in the 42-year nation-building process.

Abdullah said it was the Cabinet and not the National Registration Department which  had deliberated on the matter at length.

He said:  "As you know, the Cabinet comprises Ministers of various religions and races ... all are satisfied and have given their agreement, so it is better that the decision is accepted."

If this is the case, then Malaysians must tell the Cabinet Ministers that they are wrong in wanting  to hightlight the differences among Malaysians rather than emphasise their common bond of national identity.

In fact,  the people are entitled to ask whether the Cabinet Ministers who could decide on such a retrograde step and  turn the clock back after 42 years of Malaysian nation-building are proper models of what Malaysians should be -  who identify themselves as a Malaysian first above their racial, religious, linguistic and cultural differences.

Furthermore, the concern expressed by the President of  the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism, A. Vaithilingam calling on the Government to reconsider the matter as  the mention of race and/or  religion could lead to bias and discrimination is most valid and legitimate.

The Cabinet on Wednesday should seriously reconsider and drop the reference of religion in the national identity card, taking full consideration of  its adverse effect on the Malaysian nation-building process, especially with the latest finding that racial polarisation has reached the worst level at the Universiti Malaya with mixing among students of different races outside the classroom almost non-existent.

The Sun in its front-page headline report said that while it is common knowledge that the level of social interaction among Malay, Chinese and Indian students has decreased over the years, this segregation on campus is now almost complete.

It cited the findings from a survey by Asso Prof Sheela Abraham of the Education Faculty, University of Malaya which found that 98% of Malay students, 99% of the Chinese students and 97% of Indian students  do not mix socially with students of other races.

While a small amount of mixing does take place outside class, they happen largely because they are unavoidable: as on field trips, in project work and at university-organised games.  Outside of these activities, multi-racial interaction is almost non-existent.

These findings are truly a severe indictment of education and nation-building  policies supposedly designed to build a sense of common identity and destiny among students of different origins.

It is most unfortunate that instead of focusing on how to forge a common sense of identity and destiny among the new generation of Malaysians, the Cabinet is more interested in highlighting the differences among Malaysians by including the reference of religion in the identity card.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong