Perak Academy’s 15th Lecture Series on Friday, May 9 held at Syuen Hotel, Ipoh, saw renowned social activist, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, speaking on a controversial but relevant subject, “Malaysia – A Shared Nation?” She spoke to an enthusiastic crowd numbering over 300 who were all ears listening to her take on the issue.
Marina started by outlining two major quantifiers that served as challenges to Malaysia being a shared nation.
The first was education. She reminded the crowd that as Malaysians we have a say in our country’s destiny. She alluded to the declining education standard and the risks it presents to the future of the nation – a high unemployment rate being a major consideration. Students who undergo the current education system would be at a disadvantage, as they would not be able to compete in the international arena with their counterparts from abroad.
The high rate of unemployable graduates, especially Malays from UiTM, is a case in point. “Last year alone over 50,000 MARA graduates couldn’t find employment. This is worrying, as the consequences can be disastrous.”
On a similar note, Marina stated that racial polarisation in schools is on the rise in recent years. This would not have happened had a single school system been in place. Although abolishing vernacular schools is the best bet in eradicating racism from schools, she insisted that it is the education syllabus that needs revamping.
“It’s pointless to put children of different races under one roof if they don’t mix and mingle. The syllabus should be tailored in such a way that it promotes integration and the breaking down of racial barriers.”
Responding to a question about a race-related discrepancy at SMK Anderson, Ipoh where motorcycle parking lots for students are being allotted according to race, she answered, “I’ve heard of horror stories regarding racial polarisation in schools but none like this. This is apartheid” she replied to a rousing applause from the audience.
Her next point was on the politics of race and religion. She warned that spiralling racist and religiously insensitive remarks would one day cripple the country. The best way to address these gripping anomalies is for civil society and the rakyat to start taking charge. She gave examples of movements like Buku Jalanan and My Constitution which promote a better understanding of national issues and provide a platform for discussions by laymen.
On religious bigotry, Marina was of the view that issues were often hyped up for the benefit of certain quarters to gain political mileage. “A real Muslim is always moderate,” she enjoined.
Marina ended the night by autographing copies of her book, ‘Telling it Straight’.