Press Statement by DAP Secretary-General and MP for Bandar Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, on 12 March 1973:
Challenge to Datuk Harun bin Idris to a public debate on whether it is in the national interest or against it for the continued non-recognition and discrimination against Malaysians holding foreign degrees of international repute
The UMNO Youth Leader, Datuk Harun bin Idris, has again spoken about anti-national elements in the country on the ground that they were using intellectuals and graduates from universities not recognised by the Government to influence the people.
He alleged that these anti-national elements were active in the industries of several states.
It is not clear what Datuk Harun is referring to, what is clear is that he is alleging that all those who disagreed with the continued non-recognition and discrimination of Malaysians holding foreign degrees, like Nantah, Formosan, Indian and Middle Eastern universities are anti-national and anti-leadership elements.
It is the DAP’s considered view, supported by large numbers of Malaysians, that for the government to continue to discriminate against the over 10,000 Malaysians who hold internationally-recognised foreign degrees is an act contrary to the best national interest. It is clear that by academic standards, these universities must be accorded recognition. Yesterday, we read that the Nanyang University had produced Rhodes Scholar, which cannot be said for all local universities.
I challenge Datuk Harun bin Idris to a public debate in whether the continued non-recognition of these foreign degrees is in the national interest or against the national interest.
The trouble with Alliance leaders in Malaysia is that they profess to believe in a democratic way of life and the fundamental freedoms of the individual, but they do not know the meaning of these basic rights.
Anything which the Alliance and UMNO leaders do not want, regardless of the worth and value to the country, is regarded as ‘ anti-national’ so as to shut up dissent. Thus, recently there was a power breakdown in Petaling Jaya and there was a blackout for nearly half an hour. When the NEB was asked the reason for the blackout, an official said it was not in the public interest to let the people know the reasons.
Let me state here that the 10,000 Malaysians who hold foreign degrees of international repute and which are not recognised by the government have the basic right to continue to agitate for the government recognition of their degrees, and Datuk Harun bin Idris has no constitutional right to deny them their basic democratic right.
If Datuk Harun is so convinced that it is against the national interest to accord recognition, and not merely motivated by narrow, petty sectional interests and reasons, then let him have the courage to come to the public debate to put his case to the country. But he should stop using threats and intimidation. Only those who lose out in reason and rational arguments will resort to threats and intimidations to cover up the poverty of their case, and the unreasonableness of their policies.