DAP surprised by the ‘about-turn’ of the Tung/Chiau Chung on the integrated schools programme after their meeting with the Education Minister

by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Mp for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Saturday, Nov. 9, 1985:

DAP surprised by the ‘about-turn’ of the Tung/Chiau Chung on the integrated schools programme after their meeting with the Education Minister, Datuk Abdullah Badawi, especially as after the meeting, the Education Minister made it clear that apart from the change of name from ‘integrated schools programme’ to ‘Programme for the integration of students for unity’, the programme remains basically the same.

The ordinary Malaysians must have been thoroughly confused, because for several weeks the Tung Chiau Chung had been calling for full public awareness of the implications of the integrated school programme, about the government’s long-term objective to convert Chinese primary schools into national primary schools, about the relentless attempt to undermine the character and status of Chinese primary schools by administrative and other methods, and the ubiquitous presence of Clause 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act which empowers the Education Minister to convert Chinese primary schools into national primary schools when he deems it fit.

The Malaysian Chinese were responding to the Tung/Chiau Chung call when suddenly the Tung/Chiau Chung reversed gear, and announced acceptance of the integration school programme provided the name is changed.

This reminds me of the 1972 amendment to the Education Act which abolishes the boards of management for Chinese primary schools, to be replaced by committees to be appointed by the Education Ministry.

In the Parliamentary debate, the present Gerakan President, Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, then MCA Minister, said the Chinese are very particular about names, that the government could abolish and remove the real powers of the Boards of Management, but so long as the names are retained, the Chinese would not object very much.

This must be the formula which the present Government, on the advice of the Tung-Chiau-Chung Gerakan elements, has used with regard to the integration school programme.

The DAP cannot go along with the Tung Chiau Chung’s ‘about turn’ on the integrated school programme, for the public cannot be convinced that a mere change of name here ‘there is change of soup but no change of medicine’ answers the objections to the integrated school programme.

The ordinary person is so mystified by the Tung Chiau Chung’s ‘about turn’ that they ask the following questions:

1. Is the Tung Chiau Chung’s about-turn motivated by the attempt to protect the interests of the Gerakan-Tung/Chiau Chung elements, especially with the approach of the coming general elections, as well as to justify its 1982 decision to openly support the Barisan Nasional? The conspicuous presence of the two leading Gerakan-Tung/Chiau Chung elements in the Tung Chiau Chung delegation, namely Ker Choo Ting and Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, cannot but raise the question whether the Tung/Chiau Chung’s ‘about face’ is their achievement, both of them had clearly succeededin ‘rectifying’ Tung/Chiau Chung, although they had failed miserably in ‘rectifying’ Barisan Nasional, except for change of name – which Dr. Lim Keng Yaik achieved in 1972 in preserving the name of Boards of Managements of Chinese primary schools although they had been shorn of their previous powers and rights.

2. For the first time, an important Tung Chiau Chung policy announcement was made without the presence of Mr. Lim Foo Seng. The Malaysian Chinese are fully aware that up till now, all important statements and policy announcements were virtually made by Mr. Lim Foo Seng, including the decision of Tung Chiau Chung in 1982 general elections to support the Barisan Nasional and Gerakan. I have been asked whether the announcement by Mr. Sim Moh Yee, who is generally more respected as being unaligned politically, rather than by Mr. Lim Fong Seng is an attempt by the Gerakan-Tung Chiau Chung elements to make the ‘about turn’ on the integration school programme more palatable and saleable. This is for the people themselves to draw their own conclusions.

In the past few months, the Barisan Nasional government has embarked on a process which would make it impossible for Malaysians, including Malaysian students in schools, to feel that they are one Malaysian people.

In August, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, himself spoke of non-Malay Malaysians as ‘kaum pendatang’, while in various aspects of government decision-making, the division of Malaysians into ‘bumiputras’ and ‘non-bumiputras’ is being further emphasized.

In Batu Pahat, for instance, houses and properties are even being categorized into ‘bumiputra properties’ and ‘non-bumiputras properties’ paying different assessment rates. A few days ago, the new Ministry of Trade guideline requiring 51 per cent of all new public shares issue to be reserved to bumiputras has raised the division of Malaysians to another new level.

Under these circumstances, where the government through its policies is causing the most serious racial polarisation in the nation’s history, what ‘integration’ can the Education Ministry achieve in its school programme, whether in the name of ‘integrated school’ of ‘programme for the integration of students for unity’.

In fact, the Minister of Education should realise that in the national primary schools, secondary schools and the universities, which are supposed to be ‘integrated’, racial polarisation has become a very serious problem – sometimes with extremist teachers adding ‘fuel to the fire’ of racial polarisation.

What is needed is a new policy to make the new generations grow up as Malaysians, instead of being further divided into bumiputeras and non-bumiputeras, which must be implemented not merely in Chinese primary schools, but in all schools, primary and secondary, and in the universities. Otherwise, with or without the integrated school programme or the programme for the integration of students for unity, racial polarisation would worsen with every passing year.