ORDINARY Malaysians have had enough of the ugly rhetoric and incendiary remarks of the last couple of weeks.
From the controversial International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) to the riot at the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, we have been subjected to threats of mob rule amid escalating racial tension.
My uncle in Ipoh forwarded a WhatsApp message to me on Thursday: “Guys my relative & client in Bukit Aman of senior ranking just called. This is genuine.
“Please avoid going out after 9pm today until Friday as there are random attacks going to happen in USJ, Subang, Puchong, Klang and areas of Old Klang Road.
“There are plans of attacks from various gangs, etc.
“Please be safe and try to avoid any places with crowds after 9pm.
“Please be safe people.”
My response to him was short: “Please do not listen to rumours and please do not forward such messages.”
Social media can be a boon but in times such as this, it adds on to already tense situations.
And this isn’t the only message being circulated. There are others, including videos, that are more harmful but all have one central theme – the threat of violence.
Enough already. Stop the racist videos. And, most importantly, please refrain from sharing rumours on social media.
Cooler heads must prevail moving forward because it is imperative that we work towards maintaining the country’s peace and harmony.
The police have made a number of arrests in the temple fracas and we should let the authorities handle the matter now.
There appears to be so many different narratives to this incident, depending on who you talk to.
But, and this is a big but, both the Prime Minister and the Home Minister have confirmed that the rioting was not a racial issue.
It was a criminal issue.
The rule of law must be adhered to and we should not tolerate criminal acts of violence such as the burning of cars or assault on innocent firemen.
Emotions are understandably running high at the moment but it is crucial that all parties involved work to find an amicable solution to this issue.
As for ICERD, despite the government’s decision not to ratify this convention, a planned rally on Dec 8 is set to go ahead.
Umno and PAS will continue with this demonstration “to state our stand peacefully”, as described by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.
The government’s U-turn on ICERD has certainly helped to defuse a tinderbox situation which was threatening to get out of hand.
If the original intention of the rally was to pressure the government to reject ICERD, one can now question the motives of the organisers in insisting on going ahead with the demonstration.
Regardless, the planned rally would still have to comply with the Peaceful Assembly Act before approval is given by the authorities.
As I mentioned earlier, both the temple incident and the ICERD protest have seen statements issued by various parties that touched on religious and racial sentiments.
More than 160 police reports have been lodged and the cops have identified nine individuals who have made comments “that sparked racial tensions”.
Their statements are in the process of being recorded, but there are obviously more people who should be investigated.
The police should take strict action against anyone, even big-name politicians, found to have spread provocative racist statements and fake news on social media.
I am confident that firm action from the authorities will defuse the situation and prevent tension from boiling over.
But it is a sad indictment of the times that even an inane video of a Malay man castigating a Chinese girl can lead to dangerous polemic.
In many ways, we have become a reactionary society and the one thing I have learned over these last two weeks is that we are still a long way from being a united nation.
That is the sad truth. We are as polarised, in fact probably more so, than when we achieved independence in 1957.
The writer believes that Malaysians should stop propagating negativity. Multiracial Malaysia must stand up and show that moderation is the only way forward as a nation.