DAP calls for a policy of at least one university in the each State to solve the triple problem of higher education demand of Malaysians, the $5.8 billion Balance of Payments deficit and racial polarisation in Malaysia.

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the Official Opening of the new DAP National Building at Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, on Saturday, 14th July at 10a.m.

DAP calls for a policy of at least one university in the each State to solve the triple problem of higher education demand of Malaysians, the $5.8 billion Balance of Payments deficit and racial polarisation in Malaysia.

A week ago, the Finance Minister Tengku Razaleigh, called for a national campaign to get every Malaysian to play a part in helping reduce the country’s balance of payments deficit, estimated this year to total $4.8 billion.

The government must bear responsibility for the huge Balance of Payments deficit for its policies had widened rather than narrowed this deficit.

The Annual cost of Malaysians, both the government and the parents, sending their children overseas for higher studies overseas exceed $1 billion, which is easily some 2 per cent of the Balance of Payments this year.

The DAP calls on the Mahathir Government to adopt a new higher education policy of ensuring that there is at least one university, whether government or private, in each State in Malaysia to solve the triple problem of:

• the demand, which has reached crisis proportion, for higher education opportunities in the country for Malaysian students;

• the slashing by one-fifth the Balance of Payments deficit through the local provision of higher education opportunities to Malaysians who now have to spend $1 billion a year overseas;

• Lessen the problem of racial polarisation which had been worsened by the widespread sense of injustice and discrimination over the allocation of higher education places in the country.

The 70% bumiputera student intake for the new University Utara Malaysia has again re-opened the question of the injustice of ^ the system of university student intake and recruitment, and the even more short-sighted government policy prohibiting the establishment of private universities. Malaysian students can go overseas to study in private universities but not locally.

It is indeed an eloguent reflection on the philosophy of the government of the day that they are full supporters of the process of privatisation so that political leaders in the Barisan Nasional parties and their cronies could not make great wealth and fortune, but they vehemently opposed the privatization of universities to allow the establishment of private universities to complement government universities to train more qualified manpower for the country’s development and progress.

The educational future of the children has not only become the most agonizing problem for Malaysian parents, it has become a crushing burden as well – when all these problems could be easily resolved with an enlightened and liberal government policy to open up higher education opportunities in the country by allowing the establishment of private universities.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, was reported in yesterday’s press as saying that he is very concerned over the present trend of polarisation among children in the country and said that if left unchecked, the situation could see seeds being sowed towards a confrontation of the races.

DAP proposes Royal Commission of Inquiry to reduce Racial Polarisation in Malaysia

I remember that on June 9, 1980, when I moved a motion in Parliament to debate the Mahathir Cabinet Committee Report on Education, which introduced the 3M education system, I said that “education has become the most divisive issue in the country, and instead of contributing to national integration, has the opposite effect of causing national disunity and further racial polarisation.

I also referred to studies in Malaysian schools which showed that a common syllabus, common medium of instruction, common examination and a common roof need not necessarily lead to greater national unity, but could instead exacerbate ethnic relations.

At that time, my call for national and governmental attention to the adverse effects of government policy to racial relations was disregarded, and I am not sure whether the government is now prepared to deal with this grave problem frankly and justly.

Datuk Musa should realize that the effects of the education system is the greatest cause of the ‘racial feelings’ of children which he urged parents to curb.

The university campuses, for instance, is another centre of polarisation. Why is this so?

When Dr.Mahathir Mohamed was sworn in as Prime Minister on July 16, 1981, I made a courtesy call on the same day to congratulate him on his becoming Prime Minister. One of the issues I raised in our 45-minute discussion was my concern at the racial polarisation in the country.

The DAP hopes that Datuk Musa has spoken about the dangers of racial polarisation not to score political points, but to open a national search to counter the problem.

The DAP is prepared to co-operate fully in this search to reduce polarisation, and we propose Royal Commission of Inquiry to reduce polarisation, comprising political leaders form the major political parties as well as other qualified Malaysians, be established to study the problem and make recommendations to overcome it.

3. DAP expresses graves concern at Singapore Government’s latest move at government press control and monopoly

Press freedom in the ASEAN countries has come under consistent onslaught in the recent years, and the most disturbing development is the latest Singapore Government action on the merger of Singapore’s three major publishing groups into a single company. This will result in government press control and monopoly, and turn newspapers in Singapore into a mere propaganda sheet of the government.

The Singapore Government should take steps to liberalise its press control over the Singapore newpapers, instead of tigtening its control, for press freedom – as distinct from press licence – has a separate and distinct social role in every nation which believes in the democratic process.

Looking over the events of the past few years, there appears to be a competition among ASEAN countries as to which government could become more authoritarian. The reverse should take place – a competition among ASEAN states as to which government could put greater trust in the people to allow greater basic freedom consonant with a free and responsible society.

The DAP therefore calls on the Singapore Government to reconsider and withdraw its latest press move to merge Singapore’s three major publishing groups, which publishes seven newspapers in the three main languages as well as several magazines, and to liberalise its press law and controls.