Published on: Friday, February 28, 2014
Papar: Unlike Peninsular Malaysia which basically comprises three main races - Malays, Chinese and Indians - any plan to remove the "race" category in official forms will not be practical where Sabah is concerned which has over 30 ethnic groups that are all proud of their heritage.
In fact, such a proposal should not have been brought up by a senior Barisan Nasional leader, more so someone from Sabah, as it would then seem that the Government is suddenly advocating a "raceless" society.
Sabah Barisan Nasional Backbenchers' Club Chairman Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail (pic) said it was not the right time for such a move nor suitable for the State that is known for its rich ethnic and cultural diversity.
He said, for that matter, nobody can prove that identifying a Malaysian based on his or her race and ethnicity can be a liability.
"From the day we were born, we have already been identified with a race and religion by our parents.
"So, omitting 'race' in all forms is inappropriate and impractical in Sabah.
I fear that people, especially the younger generation, might gradually forget their roots.
"Even now, some of our young people are ignorant and careless about their traditions, culture and customs which are related to their racial identities," he said, Thursday.
Rahim, who is also Papar Umno Divisional chief, was commenting on the recent proposal by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup that it may be time to remove the stating of one's race on any form meant for official use in the country.
Kurup, who is the Minister in charge of National Unity, said it is sad that Malaysians are still divided by racial and religious identities, even after 50 years of independence. The Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) President further said the question now is when would Malaysians start seeing themselves as Malaysians, instead of basing their identities on race.
However, Rahim, who is Pantai Manis Assemblyman, disagreed saying the proposal may be tantamount to restricting the people's freedom and desire to be proud of their racial identity.
"Sabah has been recognised by many top leaders, including the Prime Minister, as a 1Malaysia role model in the country due to the strong bond and unity amid diversity that bring us together in harmony.
"Irrespective of our race, ethnicity and faiths, we are able to celebrate and sit together in every annual festivity like Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Harvest Festival and Deepavali, including visiting each other's open housese which is a norm and tradition in the State.
"This is the harmony situation that must not be jeopardised," he said.
He also believed it is not wrong for a person to be identified based on race or religion because it is an integral part and pride of a person's life.
"I am very proud of having such diversity. I have KadazanDusun, Brunei, Bajau, and Suluk heritage. And I believe most Sabahans with mixed races and ethnicity are also proud of who they are.
"Hence, if we identify ourselves as 'Bangsa Malaysia', I believe we will lose our roots and the younger generations might be questioning and searching for their racial identities," Rahim said.
Rahim is the second Barisan Nasional leader to pour cold water on the proposal.
On Thursday, Upko Vice President Datuk Marcus Mojigoh said it should not be implemented as it would place native communities in Sabah, in particular, at a disadvantage in terms of identity.
"I can be in a Chinese community, an Indian community and still live in harmony with those around me.
This is the norm in Sabah. My family, like many in the State, has people of much diversity.
" He (Kurup) is trying to strengthen our unity as Malaysians.
I am proud to be a Kadazan. What is wrong with having a race?," Mojigoh asked.