Despite the sharpening racial debate in the country, the Najib Administration’s move to push 1 Malaysia to unify its 27 million citizens of various ethnicity has received a boost with the Cabinet’s agreement to drop “race” from most official forms and documents.

It is understood that Malaysians can opt out of stating race in official forms and documents that still have such a requirement. The category has been in all forms since the country achieved Merdeka in 1957.

“The Cabinet made the decision in early August,” a government official familiar with the move told The Malaysian Insider.

He said the civil service is now working to eliminate the category in all new forms and documents being printed.

However, it is understood that some forms will continue to have the category in relation to special privileges for Bumiputras.

In an immediate reaction, Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan welcomed the decision as a Merdeka gift for the country’s 52nd independence anniversary.

“That’s great news. We are all Malaysians from Perlis to Sabah so putting race is divisive,” Nur Jazlan told The Malaysian Insider.

The two-term MP also hoped the civil service will implement prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s 1 Malaysia efficiently and effectively.

“The concept is the basis of how our country started in 1957 with the Alliance in power and then Barisan Nasional. We need to narrow our differences and widen our common characteristics,” he added.

Many activists and non-governmental organisations have long called for an abolition of the category, calling it archaic and divisive in multi-racial Malaysia.

The latest to take up the call was International Trade and Industry deputy minister Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir who agreed that Malaysians should not be required to state their race in most official forms and documents.

He said in Penang on Aug 9 that it was unnecessary except for certain forms relating to the special privileges of Bumiputras,

“I would highly encourage that such columns for race be removed. This is in line with the 1Malaysia concept,” Mukhriz said.