Merdeka University

Adjournment Speech by DAP Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Ra’ayat on Friday, 4th February 1972

Merdeka University

In 1968, there were proposals to establish two new universities, namely the National University and the Merdeka University. The National University is now in existence. The Merdeka University, however, has run into stormy waters.

The Merdeka University was mooted by Chinese educationists and educational bodies to provide university educational opportunities for Chinese secondary school leavers. At present, these Malaysian students had to go overseas, either to Nanyang University in Singapore or the Taiwan universities for further education.

The Merdeka University was also conceived in the spirit of Clause 152 in the Malaysian Constitution which guarantees the use and study of all languages in the country.

Right from the beginning, the project ran into strong opposition from the government, and the ruling parties, in particular the UMNO and MCA. The government’s attitude was best exemplified by the statement by the MCA President, Tun Tan Siew Sin, who said that to expect the Merdeka University to succeed was like waiting for ‘iron trees to flower’.

However, as a result of national popular demand, one day before the general elections on May 10, 1969, the government registered the Merdeka University project – after holding up its registration for a considerable time.

The question in the minds of all then was whether this was merely a general elections gimmick and trick to get vote, or whether it represented sincere government attitude not to obstruct the building of a university to increase university educational opportunities from the people’s own efforts and funds.

During the NOC rule after May 13, right up to this day, there is uncertainty as to the position of the Merdeka University project, as to whether it is banned or otherwise.

The public, from all walks of life, whether hawkers, trishaw-riders, barbers, workers, had made contributions and donations for the project. A lot of money has been collected. A lot more has been pledged as donations. But the question is: Is the Merdeka University project banned, and if so, why is it banned.

The government should clarify its position on this matter, and I would also like to ask the Minister of Education whether he would receive a delegation from the sponsors of the Merdeka University to discuss the subject.

Before I conclude, I would urge the government not to stand in the way and frustrate the people’s desire to set up the Merdeka University, which should be permissible in a democratic nation.