Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, at the DAP Semenyih Branch Dinner held at Semenyih, Selangor, on Saturday, 21st July 1979 at 8p.m. to mark the official opening of the Semenyih DAP Branch
Merdeka University Council should consider launching a national campaign to re-petition for government approval for establishment of Merdeka University before the final resort to the Courts
The campaign for the establishment of the Merdeka University, to provide more higher education opportunities for our children when more and more find the doors of university education closed to them, and to give meaning and substance to Article 152 of the Malaysian Constitution, which guarantees mother-tongue education at all levels, had faced great obstavles and many stubborn opponents.
Last year, the MCA under the leadership of Datuk Lee San Choon, was in the forefront in denigrating and condemning the Merdeka University, giving full support to the decision announced by the Education Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, at the UMNO General Assembly last September that the Government had rejected the petition for the establishment of Merdeka University.
MCA leaders went round the country, telling branches, members and the public that in exchange for rejecting the Merdeka University project, the Government would greatly expand university places for non-Malay students.
But the university intake this year, showing a meager 2% increase for non-Malay students, showed again how insincere are the top MCA leaders – who are more interested in preserving their positions in the Cabinet and Government, regardless of whether they have lost all legitimacy and claim to represent anyone but they themselves!
The public disenchantment with the meager 2% increase of non-Malay students in the local universities has highlighted the importance of private universities being allowed to be set up, to help defuse the increasingly public discontent and alienation from the government over the educational question.
Merdeka University, if allowed to be established, would in fact be a great contribution to remove a very deep-rooted cause of national division and disunity in Malaysia.
It is most unfortunate that in Malaysia, there are people whose attitude to education is a narrow, racialist and intolerant one, who are opposed to all Malaysians, regardless of races, being given more opportunities for educational advancement.
It is to Malaysia,s long-term national interest to create conditions whereby all Malaysians and races could progress, for the retard the progress of one group is to retard the progress of the whole society! Malaysia should halt the policy of cutting our nose to spite our own face!
I was very impressed by a statement by the Prime Minister when declaring open the MIC general meeting in Klang last month that “if we do not rise beyond communal considerations and continue to assume that the benefits enjoyed by one community is at the expense of another, there is a danger that the gains that we have achieved so far will be wiped out.”
This means that, for instance, non-Malay students should not begrudge or oppose the provision of special assistance to Malay students to enjoy higher education opportunities, on the ground that this is at the non-Malay expense. I can state with confidence that non-Malays in Malaysia do not oppose or begrudge the provision of special higher education opportunities for Malay students.
But this statement of the Prime Minister also means that the Malays should not oppose or obstruct the provision of more places for university education for non-Malay students, on the ground that this would be at the expense of the Malays – especially when this is not the case, as in the proposed establishment of the Merdeka University.
If Merdeka University is established, it would in fact create more university places – and the question of doing this at which group’s expense does not arise at all.
Unfortunately, the philosophy spelt out by the Prime Minister does not seem to have permeated down even to his Cabinet colleagues, including MCA leaders, for otherwise how could MCA leaders and Ministers opposed the proposed Merdeka University project.
What non-Malays in Malaysia are asking is not the reduction of a single university place currently enjoyed by Malay students, but the expansion of university places to meet the needs of large numbers of non-Malay and Malay students.
There is a need to educate more and more Malaysians to stop thinking in terms of racial considerations, but national considerations; that the progress and advancement of any group (not at the expense of other groups, like the Merdeka University project) must be to the benefit of national interest.
In this light, I suggest that the Merdeka University Council should seriously consider launching a national campaign to re-petition for government approval for the establishment of Merdeka University before final resort to the Courts for a constitutional battle over the right to establish Merdeka University.
A national campaign to re-petition for the establishment of the Merdeka University would serve to educate more and more Malaysians, and also political leaders inside and outside the Government, that we should grow up and cease to think that “the benefits enjoyed by one community is at the expense of another.”
I am not suggesting that the proposal legal action of the Merdeka University Council, for which the expert opinions of constitutional experts and Queens’ Council have been sought, and One-Person One-Dollar Campaign launched in various parts of the country, should be . If my suggestion that a national campaign to re-petition for government approval for the establishment of Merdeka University is considered acceptable, then legal action would be resorted to only after the failure of the re-petition campaign.