Racial & Religious Harmony in Malaysia: Interview with YB Dato’ Wira Haji Amiruddin bin Haji Hamzah (MP, Kubang Pasu)

With the current political instability and not spared from recent geopolitical developments such as the Ukraine-Russia war, how does Malaysia continue to maintain racial and religious harmony? In this on-going series, Hafiz Hassim interviews Malaysian Members of Parliaments to gain insights into such a feat and what could lie ahead for Malaysia.


In the first article of this series, YB Dato’ Wira Haji Amiruddin bin Haji Hamzah shares his insights on maintaining racial and religious harmony in his constituency, state and federal levels. YB Dato’ Wira Haji Amiruddin bin Haji Hamzah is currently a Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu. He had previously served as Deputy Minister of Finance from July 2018 to February 2020.

Insights from YB Dato’ Wira Haji Amiruddin bin Haji Hamzah

With the recent political uncertainties and politicking, Dato’, what are your thoughts on their potential impacts to race relations in Malaysia?

Currently, race relations in Malaysia are quite good. Indeed, the existence of political uncertainties has impacted racial harmony in Malaysia. This is due to the endless game of political chess which causes the instability of the country’s political climate. Such instability affects race relations in the country.

A stable government is required to implement policies that are effective and comprehensive for the people. However, as we have seen, the three changes in administration in a short period with none of which has served a full term, is not only evident of political instability at the central level but also the uncertain directions of the country’s administration. This was seen from the Pakatan Harapan government switching to Perikatan Nasional helmed by Muhyiddin, and subsequently changing to one led by Ismail Sabri today. This affects the country’s vision as there is now no policy that is strong enough to lead the people and instil confidence to face current challenges. For example, what we are feeling today in this post-pandemic phase.

With an unsettled economy, rising cost of living, and with many left unemployed, racist sentiments can easily take root. In other words, the welfare of the people that is not protected due to political uncertainty of the government is a factor affecting racial relations today. 

Do you think racial issues in Malaysia is simply a political tool used by politicians or political parties, or do you think the issues go beyond being a tool?

There are many factors we need to understand. First, the historical context of the formation of races especially in Western or Peninsular Malaysia where racist sentiments can easily take shape. This formation was based on British colonial policies. To confound matters, political parties in Malaysia are formed to protect the interests of specific races. Therefore, like it or not, a political party must be seen to champion a specific racial identity to be perceived as relevant in the current political context.

However, it is not necessarily wrong when a party looks after the interests of a specific race. If we look at the NEP which was the national economic policy in the era of Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, it was well intended to increase the equity of poor Malays who were affected by the divide-and-rule policy of the British. The increase in equity through NEP enables the Malays to increase their social mobility and subsequently working together with other races to further prosper Malaysia’s economy.

It becomes a problem when racial sentiments are exploited to safeguard political interests instead of safeguarding the people’s and to cover up corruptions.

Shifting to your constituency, could you describe Kubang Pasu and how you manage racial harmony there?

The majority of Kubang Pasu are Malays, roughly 85%. The remaining mainly entails Chinese and Indians with a small population of Siamese. I always keep abreast with racial issues by regularly connecting with community leaders of each race.

During the Movement Control Order, I used this approach of connecting with community leaders to better understand issues. Aid was also easily distributed because these community leaders have closer ties with their communities. So, they are better suited to understand their communities’ situation. I also facilitate direct distributions to them. I am also an Anak Bukit Assemblyman. In this capacity, I have a personal advisor representing the Tiong Hua community in Anak Bukit.

At the state level, there were past racial and religious issues in Kedah. For instance, the demolition of a Hindu temple as directed by the state government. What is your take on handling such sensitive issues?   

Such issues related to race and religion should be addressed via negotiations. The issue concerning this temple is extremely sensitive. If not handled properly, it can create tensions. What can be done, if there is an overlap between the government and a particular religious community, the parties involved should come together in negotiations to discuss the issue as well as seek a solution in reaching mutual agreement. This is the earliest step that should be implemented to avoid any tensions before other measures are taken by the state government in accordance with the law provided.

Dato’, how do you see the future of race relations in Malaysia and what are the most critical actions that must be taken by the people and the government to strengthen national unity?

The government should strive to implement a comprehensive policy. In a post-pandemic situation, the country’s economy is still volatile and the welfare of the people is not defended. In this regard, the people need a stable government as opposed to instability due to political squabbles.

The most important factor is to expand the country’s economic pie so that economic distribution can be implemented more widely to the marginalized. As I mentioned a moment ago, the NEP, for example, has a good objective which is to further expand the country’s economic pie, in addition to helping the underprivileged, namely the Malays at that time. With the expansion of the economic pie and the implementation of strong economic policies, fates of the people especially the underprivileged can be protected. Those who benefit from this can improve their socio-economic status, and in turn contributing to the country to further develop the country’s economic pie. Indirectly, this can also reduce inter-racial tensions and conflicts in our country.

Amin Mubarak contributed to the writing of this article.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of STRAT.O.SPHERE CONSULTING PTE LTD.

This article is published under a Creative Commons Licence. Republications minimally require 1) credit authors and their institutions, and 2) credit to STRAT.O.SPHERE CONSULTING PTE LTD  and include a link back to either our home page or the article URL.


  • Hafiz Hassim graduated with a Master in Political Science from IIUM in 2022. His interests are in political theory and cultural studies.