Merdeka University

Speech by DAP Organising Secretary, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, to the Batu Pahat DAP Branch on Sunday, 12th May 1968 at 8 p.m.

Is the proposed Merdeka University a “communal” project?

Yes, says the Alliance and the MCA.

Let us examine closely this delicate issue, which, if badly handled, can create a fund of ill-will, suspicion, animosity and even hatred among the races, delaying, if not destroying, the process of Malaysian integration.

One easy way to find out whether a project is “communal” is to ascertain whether it is confined exclusively to members of one race, with the purpose of serving the interest of one race only.

Many examples fit into this definition the Malaysian Chinese Association, the United Malays National Organisation, the Malaysian Indian Congress and Malay Regiment. They are all confined to members of one race only.

And who are the moving spirits behind these four communal organisations? No other than the Alliance leaders themselves.

Now, does the Merdeka University fall into this category? Will its intake be confined exclusively to students from one race?

The answer is NO. The sponsors of the Merdeka University have made it very clear that the Merdeka University will take in students from all races and from all language streams.

Furthermore, the Merdeka University sponsors have also pledged that Chinese will not be the sole medium of instruction. Both Malay and English will also be used as media of instruction.

Any reasonable man, with no axe to grind, will accept that the proposed Merdeka University meets the multi-racial requirements of our society, and is not “communal” in character, unlike the MCA, the UMNO, the MIC and the Malay Regiment.

Why then do Alliance and MCA leaders keep on claiming that the Merdeka University is a communal project, and that supporters of the project are communalists?

This is because the Alliance and the MCA do not accept that languages other than Malay should be accorded an equal and honourable place in Malaysian society.

The Alliance and the MCA reject multi-racialism as the basis of nation building and Malaysian integration.

It is for this reason that MCA leaders, for instance, regard any attempt to solve the problem of 7,000 Malaysians, who hold unrecognized Nantah and Formosan University degrees, as “ chauvinist” when it should be regarded as a national problem. The MCA leaders prefer to see the 7,000 Malaysians go unemployed, underpaid and swell the ranks of the discontented and frustrated instead of soiling their hands by this “chauvinist” problem.

It is true that the Merdeka University was mooted originally in order to find avenues for further studies for students from Chinese schools, after Inche Khir Johari restricted them from going overseas.

It is all the more to the credit of the Merdeka University sponsors that they could rise above their initial preoccupations with Chinese school-leavers and throw open the doors of the Merdeka University to all Malaysians, regardless of their race and language, and to use the three main Malaysian languages as media of instruction.

Even the Alliance Government has not been able to do this much. Their MARA College is still confined to students from one race. Has the Alliance Government the same breadth of vision and commitment to a multi-racial society and throw open the doors of MARA college to all Malaysians?

The task of any responsible and honest government is to help the Merdeka University sponsors realize their wishes- that is, to build a genuinely multi-racial, multi-lingual University fit for the sons and daughters of Malaysia.

But support for such a project presupposes that the Alliance and the MCA accept multi-racialism as the cornerstone in Malaysian nation building.

Can the Alliance and the MCA rise above their narrow racial considerations and forget their sectional, political and self-interests, to give support to such a project?

We urge the Alliance and the MCA to try and do so. If the government boldly and imaginatively supports the Merdeka University project with money, resources, guidance and personnel, then this will be a true co-operative endeavour between the Government and the people to build a full-fledged, high-standard, multi-racial Malaysian University.

Here is a golden opportunity for the Alliance to prove that it is responsive to the aspirations of the people of Malaysia. For the sake of Malaysia, we hope the Alliance will not throw it away.