Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, at a Press Conference in Kuala Lumpur at 63D Jalan Sultan, KL on Friday, 11th July 1980 at 12 noon
Lim Kit Siang invites political parties and organizations to tea party on Sunday, 20th July 1980, in Kuala Lumpur to discuss measures to completely stamp out extremist calls for the closure of Chinese and Tamil primary schools
In response to Mr. Loot Ting Yu’s suggestion that the DAP should seek to consult as widely as possible political parties and organizations on the fundamental question of Clause 21(2) of the Education Act 1961 which concern the whole future of survival or death of Chinese and Tamil primary schools, I have decided to invite political parties and organizations concerned about the existence of Clause 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act to a tea party in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 20th July 1980, to discuss measures to stamp out completely extremist calls for the closure of Chinese and Tamil primary schools.
I had originally announced at a Malacca press conference that the meeting be held next Tuesday, on 15th July 1980, but in view of the shortness of time, it has been suggested that it be changed to 20th July on a Sunday. In any event, it would not be possible to send invitations to all organizations throughout the country during this short space of time. However, in the interest of defending the constitutional position of Chinese and Tamil primary schools, I am sure organizations concerned about recent developments and calls for implementation of Clause 21(2) would not stand on ceremony, and they are requested to contact any DAP official, MP or State Assemblyman in any part of the country if they wish to attend the meeting on July 20 or in Kuala Lumpur, contact Sdr. Lee Lam Thye or Dr. Tan Seng Giaw.
Internationally, and in particular, regionally, Malaysia faces external threats and pressures. The intrusion of Soviet-backed Vietnamese forces into Thailand recently demonstrates how fragile is the entire South East Asian situation. The pressure is now directly on Thailand. If Thailand falls or crumbles, then Malaysia will be next on target.
All Malaysians, regardless of race, must be prepared to die in the defence of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Malaysia.
A corollary of this duty of every Malaysian citizen to defend the country with his life, is his right to the constitutional gurantees protecting his personality and dignity as a Malaysian citizen, whether in terms of political, economic, social, educational or cultural rights.
Malaysians however must be prepared to stand up in the defence of their constitutional rights, in this case, in defence of the constitutional position of Chinese and Tamil primary schools, if these are not to disappear through the pressures of extremist, chauvinist and sectional forces.
Since the lodgement of police reports by Sdr. Lee Lam Thye against Haji Suhaimi Kamaruddin, UMNO Youth Leader, and by Sdr. Kuppusamy against UMNO Kelantan delegate, Haji Jalani Jaafar, for offences against the Sedition Act in calling for the implementation of Clause 21(2) and the closure of Chinese and Tamil primary schools, considerable interests had been generated among the people.
People are asking everywhere whether Haji Suhaimi and Haji Jalani would be prosecuted and convicted for offences of the Sedition Act.
The law on this matter at present is very clear, especially after the Utusan Melayu case in 1971 where the High Court, in its judgement, said:
“The meaning ordinarily conveyed by the words ‘Abolish Tamil or Chinese medium schools in this country’ is clear and unambiguous. They call in question the teaching of Tamil or Chinese. The sub-heading may not unfairly be described as a clarion call for the abolition of Tamil and Chinese schools; at least, it posed a challenge to the continued application of Article 152 of the Constitution.”
As Article 152 is one of the entrenched issues which is protected by the Sedition Act from any questioning, any call for the closure of Chinese and Tamil primary schools id clearly a sedition offence.
Haji Suhaimi of course had merely called for the implementation of Clause 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act at the UMNO Youth General Assembly, without spelling out its implications. But then, I am sure Haji Suhaimi means what everyone, inside and outside UMNO, take him to mean.
Clause 21(2) is a very short clause, which states that the Minister of Education has the power, if he deems fit, to convert national-type primary schools into national primary schools.
It is clear that there could be no second way of implementation. There could only be one method of implementation, which is to convert Chinese and Tamil primary schools into national primary schools by closing down Chinese and Tamil primary schools.
Haji Suhaimi is a man of courage and conviction, and I challenge him to be brave enough to spell out clearly what he meant by implementation of Clause 21(2) of the Education Act, that what he wants is closure of Chinese and Tamil primary schools, although there could possibly be no other interpretation. Haji Suhaimi appears to have disappeared into thin air in the last few days.
Whether Haji Suhaimi and Haji Jalani would be arrested, prosecuted and convicted depends firstly on the Police and the Attorney-General and secondly on the Courts.
Although the Attorney-General has wide discretionary powers in deciding whether to give consent for the prosecution of any person, the discretion is meant to be exercised judicially, strictly on the merits of the case, and not influenced by any political or other extraneous factors.
If the Attorney-General fails to prosecute someone who is manifestly an offender under the Sedition Act (conviction of which will involve disqualification to become MP or State Assemblyman, even if the fine be $1), then the Attorney-General must answer to Parliament for his gross dereliction of duty and abuse of discretion. He may also be challenged in the courts for gross dereliction of duty and abuse of discretion – which will make it the first case in Malaysian history.
I note the Attorney-General, Datuk Sri Hamzah Abu Samah’s press comments that he would look into the reports lodged by Sdr. Lee Lam Thye and Sdr. Kuppusamy. He said: “Whatever reports sent to me will be looked into.”
This is not good enough. The Attorney-General’s duty is to uphold the law, and to warn others not to break the law. As the demand for the closure of Chinese and Tamil primary schools is a sensitive and sedition offence, why has the Attorney-general not issued a general warning to all Malaysians to stop calling for closure of Chinese and Tamil primary schools or implementation of Clause 21(2) or face prosecution?
I had wanted to seek an appointment with the Attorney-General after the lodgements of the two reports by Sdr. Lee Lam Thye and Sdr. Kuppusamy, but as there is to be a tea party on July 20 with political parties and organisations concerned with the protection of the constitutional position of Chinese and Tamil primary schools, I would hold this move in abeyance until after the tea-party discussion.
There are political parties who say one thing about Clause 21(2) outside but do a completely different thing in Parliament and Cabinet. I hope that these parties will stop turning and twisting, and join forces with all those who want to see a repeal of Clause 21(2) from the Education Act 1961 to work out an effective and united action.
I also hope that organizations concerned about the repeal of Clause 21(2) of the Education Act would be able to attend the tea party, to be held at Hotel Malaya Conference Room in Sunday, 20th July 1980 at 10 a.m., to discuss this important matter.
Let all Malaysians who cherish their constitutional right to mother-tongue education unite and by constitutional and democratic means, roll back the extremist forces of chauvinism and sectionalism.