Speech by Ketua Pembangkang and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, to the inaugural meeting of the DAP Frotection of Chinese Education Sub-committee held at Seremban DAP Branch in Seremban on Sunday, 21st August 1977 at 11am.
DAP re-affirms that the campaign to preserve and advance Chinese education and Chinese schools is not a chauvinist or sectional campaign, but a leix legitimate Malaysia a aspirations fully in keeping with the Malaysian Constitution.
In ten day’s time, Malaysians will be celebrating our 20th Year of Independence. A new generation of Malaysians have come of age. Has Merdeka kept its promise and faith the people of Malaysia?
When Malaysia became Independent, a Constitution was framed. Clause 152 of the Constitution reads:
“152. (1) the national language shall be the Malay language and shall be in such script as Parliament may be by law provide:
(a) No person shall be prohibited or prevented from using otherwise than for official purposes, or from teaching or leadership, any other language; and
(b) Nothing in this Clause shall prejudice the right of the Federal Government or of any State Government to preserve and sustain the use and study of the language of any other community in the Federation.”
A comparison of the position of Chinese education and Chinese schools in the Year of Merdeka in 1957 with today, two decades later, show that considerable set-backs had been suffered, and that greater efforts must now be made to uphold and observe, both the letter and spirit, of Clause 152 of the Malaysian Constitution.
Clause 152 made it very clear that the acceptance of Malay as the national language- which is now accepted by every Malaysian in the country – shall not prevent any person from“using (otherwise than for official purposes) or from teaching or learning, any other language.”
“Using”, in my view, means the use of any other language as a medium of instruction in schools. In other words, Clause 152 refers directly and specially to Constitutional guarantee to “preserve and sustain” Chinese schools – for it is only by this interpretation that clause 152(1)(a) and (b) has meaning and substance.
Unfortunately, in the last two decades, the Clause 152 has been narrowly interpreted, with full support and agreement of MCA leadership, to mean that Constitutional guarantee therein provided is merely that “no person shall be prohibited or prevented from teaching or learning any language”, disregarding the Constitutional guarantee of the “using” of any other language as a media of instruction in schools. This explains for the 1961 Education Act which confers powers on the Education Minister to convert all other media primary schools into national primary schools, and the history of Chinese education and schools both before and after the 1961 Education Act.
I want to reaffirm, on behalf of the DAP, that the campaign to preserve and advance Chinese education and Chinese schools is not a chauvinist or selectional campaign, but a legitimate to Malaysian aspiration fully in accordance with the Malaysian Constitutional guarantee in Clause 152 of the constitution.
It is indeed tragic that 20 years after Merdeka, there is a different reading of the meaning of Clause 152 of the Constitution.
The leaders of MCA and now Gerakan must answer for this development.
Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural nation. We must recognise and accept this fact and be guided by this reality if the government and nation and schools in the country.
Sdr. Chian Hang Kai and Sdr. Chan Kok Kit are two great examples. They lost their personal freedom not become of any attempt to use their political positions to make money and become the new rich, but because of their belief that Chinese education and schools have a rightful place in Malaysian society.
Both Sdr. Chian Heng Kai and Sdr. Chian Kok Kit are not communists and have nothing to do with communists, whether directly or indirectly. They both abhor violence as a means of political struggle. They are both committed to the peaceful, democratic and Constitutional means of political struggle to bring about changes and improvements.
Malaysian needs more Sdr. Chian Heng Kai and Sdr. Chan Kok Kit, if we are to preserve our Constitutional rights and guarantees and lay a firm and durable basis for the building of a plural Malaysian society.
Both of them will go down in Malaysian history as Malaysian nationalist who are prepared to sacrifice for their principles and the people’s long-term interest – as distinct from so many politicians today whose only thought is immediate selfish gain in utter disregard of the people’s long-term well-being.