Racial politics in Malaysia will never go away regardless of the kind of efforts put in to change things, according to former Election Commission (EC) Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman.

The former civil servant was responding to a suggestion put forth today that voters should only be grouped according to age and gender and not by race.

“Politics of race in this country is so entrenched, it will go on and on till the end of the world,” Abdul Rashid told Astro Awani.

The idea to urge the EC to do away with voter data was mooted by Pas today.

“It is time for an overhaul, with the EC releasing voter breakdown according to age or sex as the official data distributed to the media and the public,” said PAS information chief Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man was quoted as saying.

However, Abdul Rashid clarified that the EC does not officially release such data and these racial statistics was mostly done by third parties.

“It is not something that the EC does. While I think that the party that proposed this has good intentions of creating a more inclusive Malaysia, I feel that even if such data was deliberately being taken out, the political parties will still continue to read voters in such a way,” said Abdul Rashid.

Meanwhile, a Bersih 2.0 leader said that it was a good idea to remove race from voter data, and this should also extend to any other official government data.

“I think we have to reduce the number of times we have to resort to racial classification. It would make Malaysia a society less preoccupied with race. We need to move away from that,” said Bersih steering committee member Andrew Khoo.

“In all the things that we do, the forms that we fill, I think we need to reconsider whether our race is necessary or not.”

He said that this would persuade or prompt political parties from not focusing on purely on race.

“Somebody has to take the lead to move away from race based classifying. We need to challenge people in their thinking. Is it proper to be so preoccupied with this.

“Government policies should reflect actual need, instead of perceived need based purely on racial profiling. if the EC can take the lead with doing away with race category, that would be a good start.”

For progressive Muslim think-tank Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), the exclusion of statistics based on racial lines would mean little if there is little will to change.

IRF research fellow Ahmad Fuad Rahmat said that the problem of racism arises only when racist rhetoric is not curbed by the authorities.

“To me, it is not that big a deal what race a neighbourhood is. I think nowadays the demographic is changing nowadays, Malays don’t just vote for Malay candidates. People are smarter than that, we need to give Malaysians more credit.”

Ahmad Fuad stressed that those who spout hate speech, seditious and inflammatory statements must be punished.

“This proposal is a limited solution, certain parties would always say they have to represent the community that has particular cultural features.

“However, I do believe that people of influence and power in parties should refrain unconditionally of using race as the central factor.”

The GE13 results, which saw a sizable portion of the Chinese electoral swing towards the Opposition, was termed as a “Chinese tsunami” by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. However, there has those who noted that there was Malays and Indians who voted for Pakatan Rakyat, especially in urban seats as well.

On Tuesday, Umno-owned daily Utusan Malaysia further put forth this racially skewed analysis by publishing an article with the headline“Apa lagi Cina mahu? (What else do the Chinese want?)”.

Utusan was criticised for the inflammatory headline but was defended by Najib, who indirectly blamed the DAP for misleading the Chinese into greater racial polarisation.