PRIME Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad must be congratulated for making some very bold moves in his appointments to the Cabinet.
While Dr Mahathir did consult party officials, he has made some of the strategic moves based on his years of experience and wisdom.
One of the most significant appointments which came at the end is that of Senator P. Waytha Moorthy as the National Unity and Social Wellbeing Minister.
His appointment is a major development for the Hindraf movement. This sets a new agenda for the minister and Hindraf in its struggle to champion Indians in the bottom 40% as well as the entire B40 community who are at the bottom of the socio-economic and political ladder.
The powerless, discriminated and alienated in society due to the global economy and the nature of politics need specific interventions for economic empowerment and upliftment.
Now, there is an opportunity to undo the wrongs of the past and in adopting a social inclusion agenda for all Malaysians, we can seek to rebuild society “where no one is left behind”.
This appointment provides not just the new minister but also the National Unity and Integration Department with the opportunity to ensure that all sections of Malaysian society including the bottom 40% have a voice, place and share of the economic prosperity of this land.
This will be a good place to locate the Social Inclusion Unit while the Implementation and Coordination Unit might be also under the purview of the minister.
Many of us have been advocating for these changes to take place, especially from a sustainable development goals focus based on a human rights approach to development.
One major agenda for the new minister is to make the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) report public and to host a series of dialogues with civil society, academic institutions and policymakers in fostering harmony and addressing the critical grievances of all the communities including the natives of Sabah and Sarawak, the orang asli and urban poor of all communities, especially displaced plantation workers and Felda settlers.
One major recommendation of the NUCC is the formulation of the National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill and the setting up of mediation centres to resolve inter-ethnic and religious conflicts.
While the Pakatan Harapan manifesto promised a Consultative Council for People’s Harmony, the NUCC recommended a more independent National Unity Commission. There must be a review to note the best option in the New Malaysia.
There are many challenges for the new minister but also opportunities. I hope he will adopt an open policy and serve as the minister for all communities.
He can be assured that national unity related academics, institutions and civil society will be happy to work with him as we have with the National Unity and Integration Department over the years.
PROF DATUK DR DENISON JAYASOORIA
Institute of Ethnic Studies Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
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