Shafie said the Race Relations Act would define what is racially offensive.
KUALA LUMPUR, 16 Sept 2008: The proposed Race Relations Act will be handled by the Home Affairs Ministry to ensure that it can be effectively enforced.
Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Mohd Shafie Apdal said the Act would be specific in defining what is racially offensive and what sort of reactions is acceptable.
However, as the ability to enforce such an Act lay with the security forces, he said the matter would be handled by Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar’s ministry.
Shafie said his ministry would provide input and he had instructed his legal officers to look into how both ministries could collaborate on the draft.
“We must ensure that it is a very comprehensive act without overlaps between both ministries, but also that it can be effectively enforced,” Shafie told reporters after visiting an Aidilfitri craft exhibition at the Kompleks Kraf Kuala Lumpur today.
Asked why such a law had to be under the Home Affairs Ministry, Shafie said he had already discussed the matter with Syed Hamid and the latter stated that his ministry already had some provisions on governing race relations.
“Syed Hamid’s basis is also that enforcement for such an Act is necessary and I agree that without enforcement, it will not be effective,” Shafie said.
Asked if existing laws were adequate, Shafie said a law like the Internal Security Act (ISA) was “broad” and its use could “confuse” people.
“The Race Relations Act will be more specific whereas the ISA is general and covers a lot of security aspects. The Race Relations Act will look at confined issues and how people react to issues about race,” he said.
Asked if the proposed Act would thwart communities from requesting their rights or from voicing their concerns, Shafie said there would be no problem as long as they did not raise issues that threatened racial harmony.
“There is nothing wrong in raising the issues about the welfare of your own community, but if it is something that jeopardises inter-racial harmony, then it can be harmful,” he said.
He said a proposal for the Act was raised in the cabinet meeting last week.
It was announced in public by MCA Youth chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai on 14 Sept that such an Act “would be more positive than using the ISA, which is more punitive”.
Liow also added that the Act could promote greater unity in the country.
Shafie said the cabinet ministers were serious about the proposal as race relations were “not a small matter to be taken lightly”.
As for his ministry’s role in promoting healthy race relations, Shafie said they implemented unity programmes through the Rukun Tetangga or neighbourhood watch, through schools and in kindergartens.