Racial polarisation is the greatest threat to the well-being and stability of Malaysia

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the Sungei Buloh DAP branch anniversary dinner held at Sungei Buloh, Selangor, on Saturday, 18.8.1984 at 8 p.m

Racial polarisation is the greatest threat to the well-being and stability of Malaysia

Since the early 1970s, DAP MPs inside and outside Parliament had spoken of the dangers of growing racial polarisation in Malaysia, but at that time, the government leaders had not taken the DAP seriously.

A month ago, the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, expressed concern over the present trend of worsening racial polarisation to the extent that even children racial sentiments.

I hope this belated awareness of the danger of racial polarisation would lead to a serious and sincere attempt to overcome this problem. All Malaysians must be united to recognise that racial polarisation is the greatest threat to the well-being and stability of Malaysia.

Racial polarisation is to be found not only in schools and the university campuses, but also in the civil service.

At the end of last month, at a seminar on the ‘Changing Role of Administrative and Diplomatic Service’ held at INTAN in Kuala Lumpur, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Ministry of finance, Datuk R.V. Navaratnam, said that there was a growing sense of alienation based on ethnic lines among government officials. He said that strong perceptions prevailed that equal treatment is not given to all civil servants regardless of race, and that this alienation is felt in areas of promotion prospects and postings to key positions, training opportunities and areas of work.

I am told that in the latest university intake, the university students in our local universities were separated along ethnic lines and given separate ‘orientation’ by the university staff.

This is most shocking, and unless checked, could only spur on the process of racial polarisation.

I am very concerned that some Barisan National leaders are using the problem of racial polarisation to further their extremist objectives which would result in an even more polarised situation.

Recently, Dr. Ibrahim Saad, the Political Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, Anwar Ibrahim, said that Chinese parents who send their children to Chinese primary schools are the main cause of racial polarisation. By Dr. Ibrahim’s logic, one way to check racial polarisation would be to close down Chinese primary schools and Chinese Independent Secondary Schools. This is completely unacceptable and must be rejected without qualification.

I am very disturbed to learn that a top-level government agency has started a study on the effects of segregated schooling at primary school level on the creation of a united Malaysian nation.

Those who want to close down Chinese Primary schools have been using all sorts of tactics to achieve their objective. Firstly, Clause 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act was enacted vesting powers in the Minister of Education to close down Chinese primary schools and convert them into national primary schools if he deems fit. There was then the various administrative measures to change the character of Chinese primary schools, as in subject content and medium of instruction, the despatch of principal, teachers and clerks to Chinese primary schools who are not versed in Chinese language, and then the 3M curriculum.

The latest is apparently the goal of checking racial polarisation.

A week ago, the Director-General of Education, Tan Sri Haji Murad bin Mohamed Noor, sent out a circular to all headmasters giving the Dos and Don’ts when organising any cultural show. He said he was unhappy to note that some schools were organising activities that did not benefit the pupils or were in conflict with principles of the National Cultural Policy.

For instance, the schools were informed that when schoolchildren perform dances, they should perform traditional dances such as inang, zapin and joget or kuda kepang. Foreign dances may only be included if they are suitable and conform to the principles of the National Cultural Policy.

In one stroke of the pen, the traditional Chinese and Indian dances, which have become part of the heritage of Malaysian Chinese and Indians have becomes ‘foreign’ and must pass the test of ‘comforming to the principles of the National Cultural Policy.’ It is strange that ballet is allowed without having to pass any test.

At a time when the Deputy Prime minister is expressing concern at worsening racial polarisation, such government pronouncements would not help, but aggravate, racial polarisation.

The DAP calls on the Government to ensure that every government proposal should be scrutinised to ascertain as to whether it would worsen racial polarisation in Malaysia. If it would, then such a measure should be abandoned.

If we apply this test, then the Director-General of Education’s definition of traditional Chinese and Indian dances as ‘foreign’ should be withdrawn. Similarly, the Malacca State Government’s proposal to trample on the cultural, religious and historic sensitivities and rights of the Malaysian Chinese community by levelling and developing 80 per cent of Bukit China into a housing and commercial centre should also be abandoned.