By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary- General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Friday, May 30, 1986:
Call on Education Minister to introduce POR (Pupil’s Own Religion) as a subject in schools.
I met the new Education Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, for about an hour in his Ministry yesterday, and discussed with him wide-ranging educational issues.
I told the Education Minister that Section 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act should be repealed to allay the 26-year-old fears of the Chinese community about the future of Chinese primary schools. If the Government is sincere that it has no intention to close or convert any Chinese primary school, then its refusal to repeal Section 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act is inexplicable and could only strengthen suspicion about the government’s sincerity.
I told the Education Minister that the mere amendment to the Section 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act as suggested by the MCA Ministers is completely unacceptable.
I also urged the Education Minister to introduce the POL (Pupil’s Own Language) as a compulsory subject and taught during regular school hours with immediate effect, so that the constitutional guarantees of the status of mother-tongue languages would be given real meaning.
The present system whereby any 15 students could ask for POL class to be organized is unsatisfactory, for every year there would be a hassle about organizing POL classes and the problem of adequate teachers, funds and classes. Furthermore, there is a need to ensure that POL students attain satisfactory proficiency in their mother languages, which is absent presently.
I also suggested to the Education Minister that the Ministry should introduce POR (Pupil’s Own Religion) as a subject in schools, in conformity with the Rukunnegara and the Malaysian Constitution.
In this connection, I asked the Education Minister to ensure that the sensitivities of the various religions and communities in educational matters should be respected, and raised the incident at the Sekolah Menengah Convert Kota in Taiping in April, where a Muslim was appointed as a headmistress in violation of the principle of ‘maximum condultations’ with the Mission School Authorities.
The question of citizenship course ‘lecturers’ and school teachers making racist, provocative and anti-national statements and remarks to students was also raised, and the Minister was urged to take firm action to deal with such teachers and lecturers who undermine national utility rather than promoting it.
The Universities and University Colleges Act was extensively discussed with the Minister of Education, including the Universiti Sains Malaysia Crisis and the disciplinary actions against the President and Vice President of USM Academic and Administrative Staff Association (PKAPUSM), Hashim Yaacob and Rohana Ariffin.
I urged the Education Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, to remember his University student leader days, suggesting to him that there would be no Anwar Ibrahim today if there had been a UUCA during this time. I urged him to ensure that the UUCA restrictions on student activities should be repealed so that more Anwar Ibrahims of the future could be produced. The discussion also centre on the need to remove the restrictions on academic freedom, the bureaucratic control and red tape on university lectures to pursue academic excellence, such as to attend conferences and write papers, resulting in serious erosion of academic standards in our universities.