Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, AP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, at the Special DAP meeting of DAP National leaders, MPs and State Assemblymen to discuss the 3-M implementation in Chinese and Tamil primary schools held at DAP PJ headquarters on Monday, January 4, 1982 at 6pm.
DAP sends telegram to Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, to direct the immediate suspension of the 3-M implementation of in Chinese and Tamil primary schools and to reaffirm that there would be no change of media of instruction in Chinese and Tamil primary schools in any manner.
The 3-M system for Chinese and Tamil primary schools has become the first big test under the 2-M government as to whether the Barisan Nasional government is sincere3 in respecting the constitutional rights and aspirations of Malaysian with regard to mother-tongue education in the country.
Nobody would disagree with the idea that every education system should be able to impart the 3-Ms to every schools pupil, to be able to read, write and count.
In fact, that some 24 years after the establishment of our own national education system, there is such a fanfare about the need for 3-Ms to be imparted in our school, is a reflection of the failure of our education system and the schools to achieve their elementary objectives.
But if the 3-M system is meant to be the instrument to bring about a change in the character of Chinese and Tamil primary schools, then it must be opposed and condemned. If the 3-M system is to achieve its purpose, then it should aim to ensure that in Chinese primary schools, all students should attain proficiency in reading, writing and arithmetic in the Chinese medium, just as students in national primary schools should be able to attain proficiency in the 3Ms in the Bahasa Malaysia medium.
However, the basic for formulating the 3-M system was all wrong and only the DAP had the courage to point this out publicly, while Barisan component parties like MCA, Gerakan and SUPP sought to ‘cover up’ the matter.
Thus, at the opening of the Perak State DAP Ordinary Conventional Ipoh on 12th July 1981, I pointed out that the biggest objection of the survey conducted by the Curriculum Development Centre of the Education Ministry on the 3-M proficiency of primary school pupils was that in the survey assessing the reading and writing skills of primary school pupils, the students from all medium streams were tested on their reading and writing skills in Bahasa Malaysia, and not in the medium of their instruction, e.g. Chinese school students tested in their writing and reading skills in Chinese language, and Tamil school students tested in their proficiency in the Tamil language.
This would reinforce the inference that when introducing the 3-M system, the Barisan Nasional government was only interested in imparting the 3-Ms in Bahasa Malaysia medium rather than Chinese or Tamil medium, which must lead to definitive change in character of Chinese and Tamil schools.
This was why the proposed 3M plan had raised fears among the Chinese educational circles and the Chinese community that it would lead to change in the character of Chinese primary schools. The DAP had called on the Education Ministry to conduct a special survey on the basic learning skills of reading, writing of Chinese school students in their mother tongue before formulating and implementing a 3-M system for Chinese primary schools.
DAP MPs had repeatedly demanded clarifications and assurances form the Government in Parliament that the 3-M system would not jeopardize the status of mother-tongue education in the country or in anyway change the character of Chinese primary schools. The Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Chan Siang Sun, had on several occasions made categorical and solemn pledges in Parliament that the Chinese primary schools have nothing to fear from the 3-M implementation, although he was unable to explain why the original 3-M survey was not carried out in Chinese language for Chinese primary school pupils.
But last wee, the Minister of Education’s announcement about the 3M implementation in Chinese primary schools makes it very clear that the character of Chinese primary schools would be adversely affected and altered.
Datuk Chan Siang Sun, when meeting MCA Youth officials, claimed that the Education Minister’s announcement was the attempt by a few Education Ministry officials to move against Chinese primary schools, completely in violations of the National Education Policy.
If Datuk Chan is correct, then government officials in the Education Ministry seem to have every great power, far surpassing the Deputy Education Minister, or even the Minister of Education, as they could make him announce things which are contrary to government policy. It would appear they had carried out a ‘coup de tat’, and usurped not only the powers of the Deputy Minister, the Education Minister, but even the entire Cabinet of the 2-M leadership,
This is because the 3-M system had been implemented in the 62 Chinese primary schools selected throughout the country for the second day, as schools in Johore, Kedah, Kelanatan, Terengganu and Pahang opened yesterday.
Is there nothing that the MCA, Gerakan, and SUPP Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries – all supposed to be the political masters of the government servants – could do to stop a few government officials deviating from the National Education Policy?
Or is the 3-M implementation for Chinese and Tamil primary schools as announced by Dr. Sulaiman Daud, the Education Minister, had all along represented the policy of eh Barisan Nasional Government, as first laid down by the Cabinet Review Committee on Education headed by Dr. Mahathir Mohamed and having as its members Datuk Lee San Choon and Datuk Michael Chen? And that Datuk Chan Siang Sun is just putting up s ‘show’ to mislead and confuse the public?
For if Datuk Chan is right that the 3-M implementation for Chinese primary schools is the work out extremists in the Education Ministry, and against national educational policy, then every day the 3M system is allowed to be implemented in the Chinese primary schools is a day of failure, irresponsibility and impotence of Datuk Chan! I remember that when Dr. Mahathir become Prime Minister, he told a press interview that there is not a single government policy or measure which did not have the support of all the component parties in the Barisan.
Be that as it may, the time is well past for anyone to play games wit the future of Chinese primary schools and mother-tongue education in the country.
I am seeking an appointment with the Education Minister, Datuk Dr. Sulaiman Daud, on the matter. I have also sent an urgent telegram to the Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, asking him to direct the suspension of the 3-M system in Chinese and Tamil primary schools and to reaffirm that there would be no change in the media of instruction in Chinese and Tamil primary schools in any manner. If the 3M system is to be implemented in Chinese primary schools, there must be adequate educational and instructional materials in the Chinese language for the teachers and Chinese textbooks for the students; and all forms of instruction must be in the Chinese medium.
After he become Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir had pledged that there would be no adverse change in the status of Chinese primary schools or mother-tongue education against the wishes of the people. The 3M system of implementation in the Chinese primary schools is clearly against the wishes of the parents and Chinese community, and the government should without any more delay, suspend the implementation of the 3M system until it is to be carried fully in the mother-tongue medium in all aspects.
Three- prong approach to save Chinese primary schools from erosion and administrative conversion.
The DAP proposes that for a start, there should be a three-step approach to stop the erosion and administrative conversion of Chinese primary schools.
Firstly, the MCA, SUPP and Gerakan Ministers should faise the issue at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, and end the 3M implementation in Chinese and Tamil primary schools. The Cabinet is the policy-making body, and nobody would believe that a few government officials can lay down policies contrary to Cabinet intentions and directions.
Secondly, if the MCA, Gerakan and SUPP Ministers give approval tacit or express, to the 3M implementation in Chinese and Tamil primary schools, by not having the implementation halted immediately on Wednesday, then I call on all MPs irrespective of party to jointly requisition for a emergency meeting of Parliament to protect the character and integrity of Chinese and Tamil primary schools. The DAP is prepared to join forces with MCA, Gerakan, SUPP MPs who would not compromise on this issue, to demand an emergency meeting of Parliament, the condemnation of the few government officials who had usurped executive powers in deviating from the national education policy, and even ensuring the Cabinet for not stopping these few government officials from such anti-national actions.
Thirdly, the Tung Chung, Chiau Chung, and Chinese educational organizations, clans and associations should organize countrywide meetings, participated by political parties, to mobilize the people against the latest and most serious encroachment on the character, integrity and future of Chinese primary schools. MCA, Gerakan, SUPP Ministers should be invited to all such meetings to explain why they had allowed the 3M system to be implemented in Chinese primary schools in a manner highly detrimental to the preservation of the character of Chinese primary schools.