MALAYSIA NEEDS A CIVIL RIGHTS AND RACE RELATIONS ACT TO ADDRESS DISCRIMINATION SAY MALAYSIA ASEAN APEC LEAD CONSUMERIST PROF DR JACOB GEORGE!

MALAYSIA NEEDS A CIVIL RIGHTS AND RACE RELATIONS ACT TO ADDRESS DISCRIMINATION SAY MALAYSIA ASEAN APEC LEAD CONSUMERIST PROF DR JACOB GEORGE!

Malaysians are aware that it is illegal under U.S. federal law to discriminate against an employee, either intentionally or through a disparate impact, on account of his or her race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

It is also illegal to harass an employee on account of these protected characteristics or to retaliate against an employee because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by this body of federal law, as are most labor unions and employment agencies.

It does not end there!

There are indeed remedies put in place such illegalities!

U.S. employees who believe they have been unfairly discriminated against may seek redress in various federal, state and local administrative agencies, and the U.S. federal and state courts. Individuals who assert federal discrimination claims (and some state claims) must first file a charge of discrimination with the federal EEOC or the relevant local agency before bringing a lawsuit against the employer in court.

In the federal system, the agency will then investigate and determine whether or not there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred.

If the agency finds that there is reasonable cause, it will attempt to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer.

In some cases, the agency will file a lawsuit in federal court on the employee’s behalf. The employee can only sue the employer in court if the agency does not find reasonable cause or cannot obtain recovery for the individual.

In the U.S. again, if the court finds that a termination was the result of unlawful discrimination, the employee may be entitled to reinstatement (rarely granted), monetary damages and attorneys’ fees.

Interestingly, the issue of discrimination in whatever forms, from politics, life style issues, education, housing, job opportunities, health, religion has a place central to law and order and their national and state discourse there and it is entrenched accordingly.

So forgive me when I fell off my chair laughing that the Malaysian government is looking at introducing legislation to curb racial discrimination when landlords lease or rent out a property.

I am concerned, because Housing and Local Government Minister, Zuraida Kamaruddin was reported to have stated that the government viewed racial discrimination in property-related matters seriously and wanted to introduce an internationally recognized law as a deterrent here.

As lawyers, we are certainly aware there is a law called Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) which is internationally recognized!

It basically provides protection against any racial discrimination for either parties — the tenants and landlords!

I have no issues with the legislation.

But I am more concerned at the perceived hypocrisy and double speak, when the sitting newly minted minister’s statement seems to limit addressing and confining discrimination in the Malaysian Eco-system, just to matter involving property leasing?

Why being selective despite the elephant in the room?

Why the need too, for the state apparatus to intervene in what is a private arrangement between two parties which does not involve the state apparatus or for that matter, public monies?

Basically, is the government being a busy body here when there are more urgent and real issues to deal with as a national agenda?

Is the same minister courageous enough to put her political life line to facilitate the enactment of legislation similar to the United States of America’s Civil Rights Act or the much needed, Race Relations Act in Malaysia?

It is no secret that daily Malaysians face all forms of discrimination, tolerating each and every, despite hurt holding on to their dignity and keeping their decorum!

The hypocrisy here is, it was the same minister who had made statements which were considered racists, rightly or wrongly, when there was a discourse on the selection of a political candidate for an expected by-election?

On the same note of in sensitiveness and double speak; I was in a meeting recently when the chairman could not help bring in the issues of “race and religion” when addressing a consumer discourse!

Never in my training as a consumer advocate with a track record of 40 years, have I either being trained or addressed any advocacy issues with race and religious optics!

Perhaps, for such individuals, it is difficult when one is religious evangelist but holding reins in the addressing of public policy discourses not to bring faith issues into the public policy initiatives!

But the goodness is, we are all today trained to tolerate such a discourse despite being uncomfortable!

Now returning to the proposed conversation on the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) honesty is required!

What the nation needs is a Race Relations Act and a Civil Rights Legislation!

Anything less only confirms one’s hypocrisy and political two face, when calls to address a national need is sidestepped with non-issues such as the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA)!