DAP calls for the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Education

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, at the dinner organised by the Malacca State DAP at Dewan Hang Tuah, Malacca, on Saturday, 15.10.1977 at 8 p.m. to mark its 11th anniversary and to celebrate his passing his law examinations

DAP calls for the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Education headed by former Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, to supersede the Mahathir Cabinet Education Review Committee

Education in Malaysia has become the single biggest force of division and disunity in the country. the three main educational grievances in the country are:

1. Declining standards of education, primary level up to university level. The evidence for this can be found from the fact that the Ministers and the Barisan Nasional leaders themselves have no confidence in the education system and standards of the country, and send their children overseas for education, including primary and secondary education. If further evidence is needed, the new ruling by the United Kingdom General Medical Council that the University of Malaya Medical Faculty must submit an annual report to UK to satisfy them that its MBBS is up to international standard, is proof of the increasing reservation by foreign countries about the international academic standards of local universities. In fact, in five years’ time, there is a very real possibility that the M.B.B.S. degree of the University of Malaya Medical Faculty would not be recognized in the United Kingdom.

2. Diminishing educational opportunities, especially higher educational opportunities, for Malaysian children of all races. For the year 1977, a total of 25,998 students applied for degree and diploma courses in the five Malaysian universities; but only 5,953 students were accepted. Out of these successful applicants, 4,457 were Malays, 1,187 Chinese, 266 Indians, and 43 others.

This is why there has been a mass migration of Malaysian professionals like doctors abroad, because they have no confidence in the educational future for their children. To underscore the gravity of the situation, even the Deputy Education Minister, Chan Siang Sun’s own doctor-brother packed up his bags and emigrated to Australia with his whole family, soon after his brother was appointed Deputy Education Minister. Clearly his own brother’s appointment as Deputy Education Minister, far from assuring him, has made him even more decided to emigrate.

Tonight’s dinner is to celebrate the Malacca DAP’s eleventh anniversary, and also, out of kindness of my comrades in the Malacca DAP, to mark my passing my law examinations. I am in fact reminded that my own experience further illustrates the increasing dimunition of higher education opportunities for our children.

I started on my law studies when I was detained under the Internal Security Act in May 1969, when I found time idle on my hands. I decided to prepared for the LL.B. examination of the London University external degree, not knowing how long I would be spending behind bars.

I set for my first examination, Intermediate examination, in Muar detention camp in June 1970 supervised by a school principal and guarded by warders. Before I could sit for the second examination, I found myself outside the Detention Camp, and it was not until last year, that finally managed to finish my two other examinations and secured my LL.B. (Hons) from London University. On getting my results in October last year, I enrolled immediately with Lincoln’s Inn to sit for the Barrister-at-Law examination, which I did in May this year.

I was lucky a fourth time, and passed the examination. However, I am not practising lawyer yet, as I have to do one year’s chambering.

The road that I have to start and complete the LL.B. (Hons) degree of London University and the Barrister-at law examination of the U.K. Council of Legal Education is now closed to other Malaysians. Should I be detained today, and not in 1969, and should I want to better myself in detention by preparing through self-study and correspondence course some university degree, I would not be able to do so. This is because the University of London has stopped accepting Malaysian students for external degree courses.

While I feel glad that I have completed my law examinations, I feel that Malaysians who want to better themselves through self-study can no longer do so. The University of Malaya does not provide any external degree courses, while the Sains University of Penang’s extra-mural studies are very limited in scope.

This again underlines the dimunition of higher educational opportunities for Malaysians.

3. Insecurity of mother-tongue education in Malaysia
Clause 152 of the Malaysian Constitution guarantees mother-tongue education in Malaysia, not the teaching of the mother-tongue as a subject, but the use of the mother-tongue as a media of instruction in the schools.

Yet, year after year, month after month, week after week, day after day, the actions, attitudes and policies and policies of the Barisan Nasional Government show that mother-tongue education in Malaysia face a ‘besieged situation”. Only last Wednesday, the people were shocked to read of the refusal by the Education Ministry to give permission to the Yoke Hwa Chinese primary schools in Kajang to build six new classrooms at the people’s own expense.

In Petaling Jaya, with a exploding population and huge number of children who want to enroll in Chinese primary schools, the Ministry of Education has refused to build a new Chinese primary school in PJ.

This year alone, there had been several instances seriously undermining the authority and existence of Boards of Governors of Chinese primary schools.

Why should all this happen in our country which has a Constitution which guarantees the use of Chinese and other languages as a media of instruction? The MCA politicians and opportunists can try to gain cheap political propaganda at every such instance, which finally ends in nothing – but what the people can see with their own eyes is that since 1957 till 1977, the position of mother-tongue education has become more precarious and fragile. In fact, at this point of time, the MCA has not whispered a single word as to its stand on the establishment of Merdeka University using Chinese as media of instruction, as guaranteed by Clause 152 of the Malaysian Constitution.

Royal Commission of Inquiry under Tengku Abdul Rahman

These three basic educational grievances, unless resolved with a sense of urgency and statesmanship, would prevent the creation of a united Malaysian people. This is why the whole question of education must be given serious attention.

After the last general elections in 1974, the late Tun Razak appointed Dr. Mahathir Mohamed as Education Minister and made him Chairman of the Cabinet Education Review Committee.

Dr. Mahathir at first promised a Report in six months, but three years have passed, and there is still no report. The people will still remember the public controversy hat was aroused over the memorandum that should be submitted to this Cabinet Committee on Chinese education. In fact, for the forthcoming session of Parliament, I have asked the Minister of education, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamed, the following question:

“ To ask the Minister of Education whether
(a) the Cabinet Committee on Education has completed its work, and whether it is true that a decision has been take to defer publication of the Cabinet Committee Report until after the next general elections; and of not, when the Report would be made public;

(b) whether the Cabinet Review Committee has received a memorandum submitted by the All-Malaysian Chinese Guilds and Associations representing over 3,000 organisations in the country on the importance to preserve Chinese education to Malaysian Chinese and whether the Cabinet Review Committee would accept this memorandum as a basis of its Report concerning the future development of hcinese education and schools in the country.”

All indications point to no Report until after the General elections. As I have outlined just now, Education is too important a matter to postpone consideration and decision until the general elections. The longer the three main education grievances are ignored, the more harm that would be done to national unity.

This educational problem is in fact a national problem which has assumed the proportion of a national crisis. The DAP calls on the Prime Minister, Dato Hussein Onn, to recommend to the Yang-di-Pertuan Agong the establishment of a Royal Commission of Education under the chairmanship of the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tengku Abdul Rahman, to urgently tackle these three main educational grievances of the people which undermine national unity. The Tengku Abdul Rahman Royal Commission of Enquiry on Education should supersede the Mahathir Cabinet Committee. The work that has been done by the Mahathir Cabinet Committee, the amassing of memorandum, commissioning of workers and researches, need not be wasted – for they can all be handed over to the Royal Commission.

The task of the Tengku Abdul Rahman Royal Commission of Inquiry will be to create national unity through education, and stop the divisive forces which had been created by the education system and approach to date.

The members of the Tengku Abdul Rahman Royal Commission of Inquiry should represent a true cross-section of Malaysians, from the various educational streams and groups, and not as in the case of the Manathir Cabinet Committee, confined to political leaders in the Barisan Nasional component parties. This is because the Commission should work out a policy acceptable to all Malaysians, and not merely a policy acceptable to Barisan Nasional parties.

I hope Malaysians and organisations concerned about education will give their views on this proposal, for it is from the widest possible participation by public opinion that educational grievances in the country can be confronted and overcome. I await too the views of the component parties of the Barisan Nasional to this proposal of mine.

DAP to highlight the issue of corruption in the coming meeting of Parliament

The DAP will highlight the problem of corruption in high political places in the coming meeting of Parliament, for corruption at high public places have become more rampant and blatant.

Top political leaders have become even more open in their pursuit of personal interests at public expense; and there is a general lowering of public respect for top political leaders.

At the same time, public respect for integrity in the administration of law has been gravely shaken by a series of recent developments. People, for instance, ask why a 14-year-old boy is charged under the international security act and the Essential (Security Cases) Regulations and sentenced to death for unlawful possession of a pistol and ammunition, while former Deputy Minister to Prime Minister, Datuk Abdullah Ahmad, is fined $1,500 for the similar offence? People ask why there is complete silence about the case of shooting death in the house of the Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar, where there is even no coroner’s inquiry?

In Malacca, people ask why the State Government, the NBI and the Police have done nothing while the 300 industries, workshops and businesses in Jalan Kilang, Malacca, are panicked into booking for and at Malim which had not even been converted, nor is there any plan approved by government, at a free of $500 each?

In this general breakdown of public confidence in the government party of the day, the DAP will continue to perform our role as the People’s Spokesman and Champion, in Parliament or State Assembly or outside, as a Party to whom they can always turn to to speak up what they really feel but what other parties dare not voice, and to strive for objectives which they cherish but which other parties dare not associate themselves.