Pollster Merdeka Center kicks off year with national unity survey
BY EILEEN NG
Published: 6 January 2015
Independent pollster Merdeka Center will be surveying Malaysians in Sabah and Sarawak on national unity with results targeted to be released early March. – The Malaysian Insider pic, January 6, 2015. Independent pollster Merdeka Center is starting the new year by conducting a survey on national unity in Sabah and Sarawak, at a time when Malaysia is experiencing rising racial and religious tensions.
Its director, Ibrahim Suffian, said they were preparing the survey's questions, and hoped to roll it out next month, with the latest results announced by early March.
"The questions will relate to ethnic relations, driven by the fact there are many issues touching on the integrity of the national fabric, especially with secession talks in Sabah and Sarawak, as well as continuous ethic and religious controversies.
"So it is an apt time to delve into the subject," he said when contacted.
The opinion pollster had since last year wanted to do a survey ahead of the Sarawak state elections but was forced to put it on hold due to uncertainty over when the state polls will be held.
He said the latest survey was part of a larger research into national unity in Malaysia, which would also include the peninsula.
"Besides our usual methodology, this time we will also have face-to-face interviews and focus groups with youths to understand the issues they are confronted with," he said.
The firm usually conducts its polls based on random stratified sampling along ethnicity, gender and state of residence.
Respondents are registered voters and are interviewed by telephone in their preferred language.
Race and religious relations have frayed further after the 13th general election last year when the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition blamed its heavier losses on the Chinese minority, fuelled by Malay-Muslim groups that seek more puritanical Islamic laws across Malaysia. Relations between Muslims and Christians are also fragile after the controversy over the use of the word "Allah," despite the Federal Court in June upholding the decision that the ban in Catholic weekly Herald was due to national security.
The issue intensified when Selangor religious authorities seized 351 copies of the Malay-language Al-Kitab and the Iban Bible, Bup Kudus, which contained the word "Allah", from the Bible Society Malaysia office in Damansara Kim on January 2, 2014.
Critics have also accused Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak of pandering more to conservative views in his party, Umno, so as to remain in power.
However, a group of 25 prominent Malays comprising retired high ranking civil officials published an open letter asking for a rational dialogue on the position of Islam in a constitutional democracy.
Besides another 10 leading retired Malay civil servants who joined have added their names to the group of 25, the open letter has also garnered support from 22 Muslim activists and 93 civil society groups, and inspired ordinary Malaysians fed up with extremist rhetoric to start similar petitions online. – January 6, 2015.
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