Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, at the joint DAP Tung Chung-Chiau Chung dialogue on the 3M implementation in Chinese primary schools at the Chinese Assembly Gall, Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, 5.1.1982 at 11.30 a.m.
Call on every Malaysian to give the MCA the benefit of the doubt that they knew nothing about the 3M implementation in Chinese primary schools until Wednesday’s first Cabinet meeting in 1982.
The implementation of the 3M system for Chinese primary schools is the serious step to change the character of Chinese primary schools.
Ever since the announcement by the Minister of Education, Datuk Dr. Suliaman Daud, about the implementation of 3M in Chinese primary schools, which make it very clear that it entailed the change in the character of Chinese primary schools, the entire Chinese community had been shaken to its roots.
This is because the Barisan Nasional government had repeatedly assured the Chinese community that the Chinese primary schools would not be converted in any way.
Some MCA leaders like the Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Chan Siang Sun, are claiming that the 3M implementation in Chinese primary schools is a violation of the Constitutional guarantee for mother-tongue education, the National Education Policy and even the Mahathir Cabinet Education Report.
There is no doubt that this is true, for the change in the character of Chinese primary schools through the implementation of the 3M system strikes at the very basis of multi-racial and multi-lingual Malaysia.
The question is how such a drastic development like the 3M implementation in Chinese primary schools could take place without the knowledge, consent or approval of the component parties in the Barisan, like MCA, Gerakan or SUPP, and in particular, the Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Chan Siang Sun.
It is difficult to believe Datuk Chan Siang Sun’s version that the 3M implementation in Chinese primary schools is the work of a few chauvinist extremist Ministry of Education officials.
I am not surprised that Datuk Chan knew nothing about the 3M system, for from my experience about Datuk Chan’s grasp of Ministry of Education matters, it would be a big surprise if he knew anything at all, However, as a component party in the Barisan Nasional, it is difficult to accept and believe that the MCA, Gerakan and the SUPP, for instance, knew nothing about the 3M implementation in Chinese primary schools in a manner as to destroy the character of Chinese primary schools.
This is because the 3-M implementation in Chinese primary schools must have been discussed at various quarters and levels of the government for quite some time, for it is inconceivable that the details were only decided by a few government officials last week, making use of the Education Minister to make the announcement.
However, we are prepared to give the MCA and the component Barisan parties the benefit of the doubt until tomorrow, when the Cabinet is scheduled to have its weekly and first Cabinet meeting for the year.
We in Malaysia operate the system of parliamentary government with the principles of collective responsibility of Ministry for all governmental decisions.
As Dr. Mahathir told a local press interview on his assumption of office as Prime Minister, there is not a single government policy or measure which did not have the support of the component parties in the Barisan.
Although it is difficult to believe the MCA version that they knew nothing about the 3M implementation in Chinese primary schools, I would call on every Malaysian to give the MCA the benefits of the doubt until tomorrow, for if by tomorrow, nothing is done to suspend the 3M implementation in Chinese primary schools, then the MCA Ministers and leaders cannot continue to claim that thy are not a party to the 3M decision.
It is significant that since Datuk Chan Siang Sun’s statement last Thursday, he had disappeared from public view. In the other hand, the other Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Haji Suhaimi Kamarrudin, has been rather active and declared yesterday that the government would not compromise in the implementation of the 3M system for Chine primary schools.
The question Malaysians must decide is whether the 3M implementation in Chinese primary schools represents government policy or the attempt of a few extremist chauvinist officials to convert Chinese primary schools.
Educationally, nobody would disagree with the concept of the 3M system. In fact, it should not require a so-called 3M system to ensure that our children acquire the 3Ms to read, write and do arithmetic, for this is the first objective of any decent and self-respecting education system.
It is a matter for wonder that after 24 years of the national education system, the Barisan Nasional government had suddenly realized that its education system is not imparting the 3Ms.
Although the government announced way back in 1979 its intention to introduce the 3M system, it is very obvious that there is insufficient planning and prepration for its introduction.
Even in national primary schools, the teachers of schools selected for 3M implementation do not know what is expected of them. Teachers have been given a six-day training and briefing which leave them as confused as ever.
What is worse is the attempt to convert Chinese primary schools through the 3M implementation pretext.
Before the government undertakes a major educational change, it must consult the parents. In this case, the parents, whether in national primary schools or Chinese primary schools have been completely ignored, and their children regarded as more guinea pigs for experimentation by some Education Ministry officials.
As far as I know, not a single Parents-Teachers Association had been consulted on the implementation of the 3M system. The time has come for the parents to assert their tight as to what type of education they want their children to have.
If the 3M system implementation in Chinese primary schools is not challenged, there would be no Chinese primary schools except in name. there would be no need to invoke Clause21(2) of the Education Act 1961 to convert Chinese primary schools, as the same objective could be achieved by administrative measures through the 3M implementation.
I call on all parents, and in particular the parents of primary school students in the 62 Chinese primary schools selected for 3M implementation this year, to demand and requisition emergency meetings of Parents- Teachers Association, to make their views, needs and aspirations know.
Let everyone of the Parents-Teachers Associations of the 62 Chinese primary schools selected for 3M implementation hold meetings of parents where the parents express their opposition to the 3M implementation, which is nothing but a subtle attempt at conversion of Chinese primary schools.
If the Barisan Nasional government continues to ignore and disregard the wishes and constitutional rights of Malaysian, whether parents or students, then let them pay a heavy political price in the coming general elections which is scheduled to be held either in April or August.
Yesterday, on behalf of the DAP, I sent two cables to the Government to try to get them to suspend the implementation of 3M in Chinese primary schools.
The first cable to the Minister of Education, Dr. Sulaiman DAud, reads:
“Chinese community shocked by your announcement on implementation of 3M system in Chinese schools as serious threat to preservation of character of Chinese primary schools. Urge immediate suspension of 3M system in Chinese primary schools and request urgent appointment to discuss this grave matter.”
The second cable to the Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, reads:
“Chinese community shocked by Education Minister’s announcement on implementation of 3M system in Chinese primary schools as serious threat to preservation of character of Chinese primary schools. Urge immediate suspension of 3M implementation of Chinese primary schools and reaffirmation that there would be no change of media of instruction in Chinese and Tamil primary schools in any manner.”
I hope that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education would respect the legitimate and constitutional rights and aspirations of a multi-racial population. For otherwise, constitutional rights would have no meaning if they could be altered, without a direct Parliament amendment with two-thirds majority, but through administrative regulations.
If the Cabinet tomorrow refuses to countermand the implementation of 3M system in Chinese primary schools then the DAP would officially demand for an emergency meeting of Parliament on the matter.
Parliament was summoned into emergency session to change the time for Peninsular Malaysia last month. But when compared to the 3M implementation, there is no doubt that this is a very much more important issue.
Over the years, in struggle to preserve the character of Chinese primary schools and defend the right of mother-tongue education-n in the country, Tung Chung and Chiau Chung had played a leading role. The DAP looks forward to the closest co-operation with Tung Chung and Chiau Chung in the 1980s, for it is clear that the greatest threat to the preservation of Chinese education would materialize in this decade.