DAP deplores Barisan Nasional Government rejection of Merdeka University application

Press Conference Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary – General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, at DAP KL premises, 63 – D Jalan Sultan, Kuala Lumpur on Monday, September 18 at 12 noon

DAP deplores Barisan Nasional Government rejection of Merdeka University application

The DAP deplores the Barisan Nasional Government’s rejection of the Merdeka University application to expand higher education opportunities for Malaysian students.

This Barisan Nasional decision, announced by the Education Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, at the closing of the UMNO General Assembly yesterday, must be deplored for its mistaken reasoning, circumstances and timing.

Datuk Musa Hitam said that the Merdeka University application was rejected because of three factors on which the proposed university was based, namely:

• It would be set up by the private sector;
• It would use Chinese as the medium of instruction;
• It would cater to students from Chinese medium schools.

Malaysians must be shocked by the rejection, because the Barisan Nasional rejection is contrary of Article 152 of the Malaysian Constitution which guarantees free use to all languages, which includes the use of Chinese as media of instruction whether at primary, secondary or university level.

In this connection, the Merdeka University sponsors have made it clear that Merdeka University would not be a Chinese university with Chinese as the sole medium – but a multimedia university catering to the needs not only of Chinese medium schools, but also of all medium schools in the country.

If the Government had doubts on this, this could have been easily clarified by finding out from the sponsors of the Merdeka University project. In this connection, we all remember the announcement by MCA President, Datuk Lee San Choon early this year that he would lead a delegation of MCA leaders to meet the Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, on the Merdeka University. Is the rejection of the Merdeka University application the result of this Datuk Lee San Choon MCA delegation to meet the Prime Minister?

The unreasonable rejection of the Merdeka university application is a black day in the task of building and promoting a pluaral society with common national identity. transcending racial, linguistic, religious and cultural differences.

The public have a right to know whether this rejection of the Merdeka University was made by the Ministry of Education alone, or by the Cabinet; whether the application for the establishment of the Merdeka University was referred to the Cabinet.

The public also have a right to know why MCA Ministers and Gerakan leaders supported this short – sighted rejection of the Merdeka University project. The MCA Ministers and leaders have let the people down very badly, and they should resign from their Ministerial positions for having failed to look after the people’s interests.

Merdeka University, which seeks to expand higher education opportunities for all Malaysian students fully in the spirit of Article 152 of the Malaysian Constitution, will be supported by all broad – minded Malaysian nationalists. Only those whose vision of nationalism is confined to the interests of one racial group could possibly oppose it.

The rejection of Merdeka University proposal has thrown into doubt whether the Article 152 guarantee in the Malaysian Constitution for free use to other languages has any real meaning.

In fact, I am of the view that the rejection of the Merdeka University application is unconstitutional, for it violates the guarantee of free use for other languages enshrined in Article 152 of the Constitution.

The circumstances and timing of the announcement must also be deplored. From Datuk Musa Hitam’s speech it is clear that the decision to reject the University Merdeka application was made long before the general elections. Yet Barisan Nasional parties, in particular MCA and Gerakan, went to the polls giving the impression that the question is still open. This is clearly a deliberate attempt to mislead the electorate – which is most undemocratic and improper.

Further, it must be asked why the announcement of the rejection of the Merdeka University application was made in an UMNO General Assembly. Although UMNO is the strongest political party in the government, the people wants to know whether the Barisan Nasional Government is a government for all Malaysians, or only for UMNO. The announcement of the government decision on the Merdeka University at the UMNO General Assembly is in very poor taste.

Although the Education Minister has announced that the government has rejected the Merdeka university project, Parliament should be allowed to decide on the matter.

I have given notice to move a motion in the coming meeting of Parliament asking for Parliamentary approval for the Merdeka University proposal; and I hope not only that time will be given to this motion to be debated, but that Barisan Nasional MPs, in particular MCA and Gerakan MPs and Ministers, will have the courage to speak up for the people – and not merely be the voice of UMNO.

The Government’s reason that the Merdeka University would be established by the private sector and therefore against government policy is the most flimsiest of all. A developing country should welcome help from the public, whether in field of economic development or educational expansion, to lighten the burden of government. The University and University Colleges Act, which had been quoted by Datuk Lee San Choon and Barisan leaders as not permitting the establishment of private universities, should be amended to make it clear that private universities and colleges of higher learning are permitted in the country – as is the case in other countries.

I propose to move a Private Member’s Bill in the October session of Parliament to amend the University and University Colleges Act to make it clear and unequivocable about private universities and university colleges being permissible in Malaysia – and I hope the MCA, Gerakan, UMNO and other Barisan parties will be enlightened enough to give it support.