Press Conference Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka , Lim Kit Siang at a joint press conference of 9 DAP MPs at Parliament House on Tuesday, 15.3.1983 at 2 p.m
Nine DAP MPs jointly condemn Gerakan MP for Tanjong, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, and the SUPP MP for Lambir, Dr. George Chan , for their role as ‘executioners’ to kill the DAP motion in parliament yesterday to repeal Clause 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act to preserve Chinese primary schools in perpetuity and to give financial parity from government funds.
This Press Conference has been called for the nine DAP Members of Parliament to condemn in the strongest possible terms the Gerakan MP for Tanjong, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon , and the SUPP MP for Lambir , Dr. George Chan , for their ‘executioner’ s role to kill the DAP motion in Parliament yesterday to repeal Clause 21(2) of the 1961 ( Education Act to perpetuate the existence of Chinese primary schools without fear of conversion , and to give financial parity of treatment to Chinese primary schools as compared to national primary schools in terms of government financial allocations . The motion had a third feature , which was to make mother-tongue teaching , or Pupil’s Own Language , a compulsory subject in all national-type primary and secondary schools where there are fifteen pupils of each race in the class , unless the parents in writing state they do not want their children to learn their mother-tongue .
Yesterday, the first day of the 10-day Parliamentary meeting, had only one government business, the Audit (Amendment) Bill. The second parliamentary business was the motion moved by the DAP MP for Sibu, Sdr. Ling Sie Ming, to seek leave of the House to introduce a private member’s bill intituled the 1981 Education (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to amend the Education Act, 1961 with three objectives:
i. To repeal Clause 21(2) of the Act which empowers the Education Minister to convert Chinese primary schools into national primary schools at any time he deems fit;
ii. To amend Section 21(1) of the Act to provide equality of financial treatment by the government between national and national-type primary schools , which the specific Proviso: “Provided that there shall be no discrimination , differences or inequality in government financial grants to national and national-type primary schools;” and
iii. To amend Section 2 of the 1961 Education Act to provide that for both national primary and secondary schools, mother-tongue teaching shall be compulsory if there are fifteen or more pupils in the school sharing the same mother tongue or Chinese or Tamil as the case may be, provided that no pupils shall be compelled to attend the Pupil’s Own Language lessons against written parental objection.
It was obvious yesterday that the debate on Sdr. Ling Sie Ming’s motion could begin at about 5 p.m. , and an excellent occasion would have been created for the government to realize the depth and intensity of the aspirations and wishes of the Malaysian Chinese for Chinese education to flourish and expand .
When the debate for the Audit ( Amendment ) Bill started , there were only three MPs who wanted to speak , namely myself , the DAP MP for KL Bandar , Sdr. Lee Lam Thye , and another UMNO MP. When the Government front-bench realized that under the normal circumstances, the debate on the Audit ( Amendment ) Bill , which does not involve substantial amendments , would conclude well before 5 p.m. , and the motion on Chinese education would be tabled in the House , signals were sent out to Barisan backbenchers to ‘filibuster’ and drag out the debate until adjournment at 6.30 pm.
This is because if the motion on Chinese education is denied time to debate , it would not have an opportunity for the rest of the Parliamentary meeting as the other government bills would take precedence . This is therefore nothing less than a decision to kill the DAP motion on Chinese primary schools and education.
But what shocked the DAP MPs is not that the Barisan Nasional wanted to kill the motion on Chinese primary schools and education, but the MPs from the Gerakan and SUPP which claimed to be champions of Chinese education should be the chief executioners in this killing!
The Chief executioner yesterday was none other than the great saviour of Chinese education, the Gerakan MP for Tanjong, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, who spoke in slow, measured tone for no less than 42 minutes – to kill the DAP motion on Chinese education.
I am most shocked indeed by Dr. Koh Tsu Koon’s role, for he should have helped the cause of Chinese education to allow the motion to come up for debate, instead of hogging parliamentary time with the purpose of killing the motion. This is why the Nine DAP MPs want publicly to condemn Dr. Koh Tsu Koon’s for his contemptible action.
We know he has personal political reasons for being an executioner of the motion on Chinese primary schools.
During the last parliamentary meeting in December last year, when the DAP moved an amendment to the Universities and University Colleges Amendment Bill to provide that not only could University Islam which wanted to use English and Arabic as medium of instruction could be permitted outside the framework of the Act, similarly should University Merdeka be permitted. Dr. Koh Tsu Koon was informed in advance that this DAP amendment to allow Universiti Merdeka to be established on the same terms as University Islam would be raised in Parliament. Instead of standing up in Parliament to support the DAP move, as was expected from his election promise to be a saviour of Chinese education, he became a parliamentary ‘fugitive’ by running away to Sarawak purportedly to inspect Chinese primary schools there.
This time, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon also knew in advance that there is a DAP motion to amend the 1961 Education Act to repeal Clause 21(2) to remove the Sword of Damocles handing over the heads of Chinese primary schools, and also further, to amend the Education Act to provide that there should be equality of financial treatment for Chinese and national primary schools, as well as compulsory teaching of Pupil’s Own Language. Dr. Koh Tsu Koon was reminded by DAP leaders in Penang not to be a ‘parliamentary fugitive’ again this time, and was told to support the motion in the cause of Chinese education.
Unfortunately, we saw what he did yesterday. If Dr. Koh Tsu Koon is not able to stand up in Parliament to support the mention on Chinese primary schools, then he should have kept quiet and abstained from the voting. The last thing he should do is to be the chief executioner and hogged 42 minutes of precious parliamentary time to give a speech which is largely from some seminar paper on public enterprises (quite unrelated to Audit Amendment Bill) just to kill off the DAP motion on Chinese education. Dr. Koh Tsu Koon will never be able to wash away the blood on his hands, for killing the motion on Chinese primary schools yesterday.
The same applies to Dr. George Chan, the SUPP Deputy President. He spoke, just for the sake of hogging time and denying opportunity for the motion on Chinese education to emerge. Is this the role of the SUPP in Parliament and Federal Government, to be an executioner to kill motions aimed to protect, advance and further the cause of Chinese education?
The 9 DAP MPs call on Dr. Koh Tsu Koon and Dr. George Tan to apologize to the Malaysian Chinese for their great disservice to Chinese education, especially they had champaigned in the last general elections as champions of Chinese education.