Our division lies not in race but in social class

Ahead of the upcoming elections, we should be wary of politicians who will resort to using racism as part of their campaign.

COMMENT | The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us a lot of things, including the spirit of belonging that tends to emerge stronger during difficult times. Malaysia may not be perfect, but for a long time, we were recognised as a multiracial country capable of its citizens living in harmony.

The emergence of the pandemic has also taught us another lesson. That racism in Malaysia is reinforced by the issue of social class, where people are segregated by the social classes they belong to.

I do not deny the existence of race-based division, but class-based discrimination is a far more chronic issue. There are those among the elite class who have lost sight of the plight of the working class affected by the pandemic.

Unfortunately, the elite class are usually the biggest stakeholders in drawing up the plans and policies for the country. It is for this very reason that such government plans and policies often benefit the elite class.

Malaysians appreciate the ‘kita jaga kita’ spirit

Throughout this pandemic, we have seen how strongly the spirit of helping one another, regardless of race, shines through. We provide as much assistance as possible to those in need, blind to colour or creed.

When you belong in the same social class, you understand the difficulties faced by those in your class. You know exactly what is needed to help them move on in life.

I remember a video that went viral not too long ago where a group of Malaysians from various ethnic backgrounds got together to free a dog that was trapped in wire along a busy road. While it may not be the best of examples in portraying a picture of unity among the people, it sent a strong message on harmony.

The elite is of course less affected by the pandemic, and for them, what matters is if there was a drop in company profits. For the downtrodden, it’s whether they will have enough to put food on the table.

Surely these difficulties will be managed differently by each group. Likewise, the maximum RM1,000 compounds imposed for violating the SOP. For the elite, it is coffee money, for the working class, it will be an added monthly expense.

Because of this, we see that a lot of the elite class display a lackadaisical attitude towards the SOP, more so among politicians who feel that they are in a position of power.

The issue of race-based division is a tune often sung by politicians as it benefits the elite class who are well aware that once the working class starts bickering among themselves, any hopes of a union among the workers in this class will be impossible to achieve.

Those from the working class must work together, regardless of race, religion or ideology to ensure that the elite class are not the source of their troubles. When a union among them is established, they will be able to pressure the government to introduce fair wages in Malaysia.

This spirit must continue beyond the days of the pandemic. It must be embedded in our daily lives if Malaysia were to move forward.

Let us revisit what happened last year.

Between June and August 2020, we worked very hard and were successful in our efforts to flatten the Covid-19 curve. And then what happened? The elite class decided to go ahead with the elections in Sabah despite the soaring Covid-19 cases. Exceptions were also made to the SOP to make things convenient for the politicians.

We are, till today, paying the price for this incident. Who then were the ones most impacted by the actions of the elite class? Surely, it’s the rakyat. With the movement control order announced once again, look at how many of our rakyat live in fear of losing their source of income.

Ahead of the upcoming elections, I hope we will be wary of politicians who will resort to using racism as part of their campaign material. We must question them on who really are the ones who are racists and who are the ones being discriminatory? Is it the rakyat themselves or the elite class who constantly burdens the working class?

During this crisis, the politicians are enjoying full salaries although they are the very source of the rakyat’s woes. It is the ordinary folks who fought Covid-19 and have to bear the brunt of their greed.

By : RAHMAN IMUDA (A writer and a labour activist) – MALAYSIAKINI

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