by DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, on Wednesday, 7th Sept. 1977:
DAP’s open challenge to MCA President, Dato Lee San Choon and Gerakan President, Dr. Lim Chong Eu, to a public debate on the future of Chinese primary schools to be chaired by the Thung Chung and Chiau Chong
It has been reported that on Sunday, the Gerakan National Publicity Secretary and once a bright young leader of MCA, Dr. Tan Tiong Hiong, denied in Malacca that the government would convert Chinese primary schools by 1980. He attacked the Opposition for spreading malicious rumours to this effect to discredit the National Front. He claimed that such rumours are completely without basis or truth.
When Dr. Tan referred to the Opposition he is clearly referring to the DAP. It is clear that Dr. Tan does not know what he is talking about. The DAP has never said that the Chinese primary schools would be converted in 1980.
The DAP is not a member of the Barisan Nasional, who is Dr. Tan Tiong Hiong to make such a denial. Does Dr. Tan thinks he is going to be the next Minister of Education?
In any event, it is well-know that the Gerakan is hardly consulted on any matters of policy, whether in field of education, economy, politics or culture.
Dr. Tan, in other words, is just talking utter rubbish.
The DAP, together with large sections of the Malaysian public, are worried about the future of Chinese primary schools not only because of the existing laws as embodied in the 1961 Education Act but also the amendments in 1971. Even more important, we are concerned about the future of Chinese primary schools because of the history of the development of Chinese primary schools ever since Merdeka.
There is not much use talking or discussing with Dr. Tan about the problems of Chinese primary schools or Chinese education as a whole. But what is more important, what is the Gerakan’s stand on Chinese primary schools and Chinese education. Is the Gerakan’s stand the same as MCA’s – or is it even worse than MCA’s.
To Dr. Tan and the Gerakan, as it is to MCA, this is a minor issue. To DAP a nd large sections of Malaysians, this is a fundamental question going to the root of the type of Malaysian society we want to build. We can never agree with views like that of Mr. Paul Leong, the Gerakan Sec. Gen., who that those who talk about Chinese education in Malaysia belong to people of the past and have failed to keep abreast with modern Malaysian needs.
The future of Chinese primary schools and Chinese education is a important and pressing issues. The Gerakan and the MCA must come out openly and commit themselves as to their respective party stands. There is no use passing resolutions in branches or conferences, for instance, calling for repeal of Clause 21(2) of 1961 Education Act, but in Parliament, voting against say such repeal. This is what every MCA and Gerakan Member of Parliament did in Oct. 1974, when I moved a motion to repeal Clause 21(2).
This is a matter which should be openly discussed and pursued, if Chinese primary schools and Chinese education is going to get their accepted place in the Malaysian national educational framework, and not be considered as faintly illegitimate or a step-child.
I therefore openly challenge the MCA President, Dato Lee San Choon and Gerakan President, Dr. Lim Chong Eu, to have a joint public debate or a series of public debate on the future of Chinese primary schools and Chinese education.
This debate or series of debate can be held in Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Penang or Ipoh. The Tung Chung and Siau Chung should be invited to be the chairman and organizers of this debate or public debates.
The DAP is prepared to let the public judge our policy and approach. Is the MCA President, Dato Lee San Choon and Gerakan President, Dr. Lim Chong Eu, equally prepared to let the public judge their respective party stands?