23 Jul 2006
Abdul Razak Ahmad
KUALA LUMPUR: The days of the all-Malay football team, largely non-Malay English debating team and all-Chinese Red Crescent society in schools are numbered.
Under a five-year unity plan — the nation’s first — all this is set to make way for multi-racial activities in schools and institutions of higher learning.
The RM100 million programme recommends, among others, that schools seat pupils from different races next to each other and encourage free multi-racial interaction in activities.
The overriding objectives of the 2006-2010 National Unity and Integration Action Plan are stemming racial segregation and building stronger ties.
The plan contains 266 recommendations that will be carried out by 18 ministries, the State Governments and 22 public agencies.
Non-governmental organisations will also be encouraged to take part.
National Unity and Integration Department director-general Datuk Azman Amin Hassan said the plan was needed to head off the polarisation in schools and universities.
"Our concern is with the lack of space in many schools for children to mix, a problem even more compounded in mono-ethnic schools," he told the New Sunday Times.
Azman said the plan did not list all the steps for unity "but we do mention them in general since these are what we would like the Education Ministry to consider".
He said schools with multi-racial enrolment should reflect multi-racialism in the make-up of school associations or teams and clubs.
"We don’t want to see the stereotypes. We want to see more colours of unity in the teams representing schools."
Azman said the Public Service Department would also be roped in.
"We will monitor reports on things like integration programmes and the movement of personnel between the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak."
One measure asks the Information Ministry to develop more TV sitcoms that can portray the inter-cultural communication between the people of East and West Malaysia.
The plan will also ask the Housing and Local Government Ministry to make it compulsory for rural and suburban housing estates to have community bodies like the Rukun Tetangga.
The Ethnic Relations course, recently made compulsory for all public university students, is also listed as one of the recommended measures in the plan.
The Cabinet approved the plan and its funding on May 17. The department was also appointed the secretariat and lead agency.
Azman, whose department comes under the Prime Minister’s Department, said a Cabinet Committee on National Unity and Integration, to be chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, would be set up in the near future.
While many ministries and agencies are already conducting pro-integration programmes, the plan will be able to centralise all the initiatives and make them easier to monitor.
"Previously, if any agency did not respond then we were in no position to follow through. But now we can.
"The aim of this plan is to get an integrated approach involving all relevant parties. It will be easier to get results if we all work together."
Azman said the department was also developing what could be the world’s first computerised early warning system on racial conflict.
To be installed in an operations room at the department’s Putrajaya headquarters, the system will process a database of information and reports on unity in every district.
It then decides how prone each area is to incidents involving race and religion. Districts will be colour-coded on a map with "red" areas the most prone to strife.
"The system will monitor every inch of Malaysia. If we know which areas are prone to conflict, we’ll have a better chance to prevent an incident."
No date has been set to roll out the system.
Azman said the system would initially process the information monthly. It will eventually be able to give weekly updates.
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