KUALA LUMPUR: Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz has slammed the racial division in the country, saying the needs of diverse segments have to be accounted for.
The former minister said the voices of all segments in society must be heard when drawing up policies.
"Socio-economic development policies will to some extent have to take into account these diversities. The caveat is that these diversities must not be allowed to evolve into issues that can become political platforms that trigger and reinforce dissent and disagreement.
"When we have diversity like in Malaysia, there is a need for a balancing act between trying to develop the whole nation, while balancing the pressures and demands of some segments of society.
"You cannot simply ignore (their voices)," she said.
Rafidah said this at an Up Close and Personal dinner talk on Improving Socio-economic Growth in Malaysia organised by law firm LHAG at Hilton Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday (Oct 16).
"There are people out there whose job in life is to create (trouble). When things are quiet, there comes some dignity issue or issue about one's ancestry.
"Those days, we didn't need to tiptoe there and here. Last time, if we had a surat layang (poison pen letter), we just burn it or tear it up.
"Today, with social media, (a person's criticism) goes all over the world," she said.
Rafidah, who is a member of the Economic Action Council, said all members of the public had a role to play to ensure issues were not racialised.
"All of us in our sphere of influence must make sure that our diversity must not be used or abused to suit political agenda or personal interests.
"We have been very free in allowing this to happen in the last decade. You can see now that it is festering," she said.
She added that strong leadership was needed to ensure the stability and unity of the country.
"In this country of ours, so many people want to be in charge. But we want people who can take charge and put the country's interests first.
"Now our problem is too many people in charge and not doing what they should do.
"It should not be that you want to be a leader. People you install as a leader because you have the quality – not because of a vacancy.
"Don't force a vacancy because you want to be a leader," she said.
On socio-economic growth, she said authorities needed to look beyond just statistics and quantitative data.
"As countries advance and people's lives are transformed, new elements enter into the equation of socioeconomic development. People now also factor in personal freedom.
"Times have evolved, new elements have been factored in, such as personal freedom, human dignity and wellbeing," she said.
Did you find this article insightful?