Speech by Parliamentary Opposition leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the Malim Nawar DAP Branch dinner (Kampar parliamentary constituency) held on Sunday, 9.8.1987 at 7 p.m.
DAP proposes the convening of a National Conference on Chinese Education represented by political parties and Chinese organizations to draw up a 20-year plan for the defence and promotion of Chinese education in Malaysia.
In recent months, the Chinese community has been very concerned about the place and future of Chinese language, education and culture in Malaysia, which had increasingly become more intense because open contempt for the constitutional right and position of Chinese language, education and culture have become more frequent and blatant.
The following incidents are reasons why Chinese community fears, instead of being allayed are being exacerbated with each passing day:
1. Breach of the Barisan Nasional general elections pledge to repeal Section 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act in the first parliamentary meeting after elections;
2. Government review of the entire 1961 Education Act where MCA and Gerakan Ministers and Deputy Ministers are completely excluded from the process and know nothing about what is being reviewed and studied.
3. University of Malaya Senate decision banning elective courses is non-Bahasa Malaysia languages;
4. The Malacca Education Department directive on collective school prayer-pledge issue;
5. UKM ruling requiring female undergraduates to put on Malay head-dress;
6. Forced cancellation of the Martial Arts, Lion and Dragon Dance Night last Sunday, 1.8.1987, part of the UKM University Convocation Celebrations, by extremist, chauvinist and gangsterish under-graduates on the ground that this is ‘unacceptable, immigrant culture’;
7. The Johore Seafood Carnival incident where Chinese signboards were ‘wiped out’ on the directive of the Johore State Government.
Johore Mentri Besar, Haji Muhyiddin Mohamed Yassin, yesterday criticized the DAP for “making mout mountain out of a molehill” on the ground that the government and the participants in the festival had settled the matter.
He said that his action in asking stallholders to give more prominence to Bahasa Malaysia on signboards at the festival stalls was justified as the function was organised and financed by the State Government. He even give this analogy: “It is very simple. When you are in my house, you behave according to rules set by me or you will be considered impolite.”
The Johore Seafood Carnival signboard incident has shown very clearly that top government and Barisan Nasional leaders have either forgotten the guarantees and provisions in the Malaysian Constitution, or are deliberately trampling on them.
It is increasingly become the fashion for UMNO leaders, whether at Federal or State Level, to act as if Article 152 of the Malaysian Constitution on the National Language makes no reference, provision or guarantee to the Chinese and Tamil languages about their free use, teaching or learning.
If this is allowed to go unchallenged, this would mean the ‘de facto’amendment of Article 152 of the Constitution, without any passage by two-third majority in Parliament. What is sad and scandalous is that instead of challenging the nibbling, erosion and trampling of the constitutional right of the Chinese language, the MCA fully participates in such decision-making. For instance, despite the Johore Seafood Carnival signboard uproar, the MCA EXO member, Jimmy Low, could still claim that the Carnival is a ‘success’! Where is his ethnic hour, dignity and esteem?
The analogy given by Haji Muhyiddin that the participants “should behave according to the rules set by him as they are in his house” is completely inappropriate and mislead. Firstly, the Johore Seafood Carnival cannot be compared to the Mentri Besar’s ‘private house’ – where he could set any rules he likes the rules on languages are set by Article 152 of the Malaysian Constitution, and not by the Johore Mentri Besar just because the government financed the festival.
Secondly, it is time Haji Muhyiddin and other UMNO leaders learn and realise ‘promoting’ Bahasa Malaysia must not and need not mean ‘demoting’ the other languages. Article 152 makes it very clear that this is not a nero-sum game, whereby the more the Bahasa Malaysia is promoted, the more the other languages must be demoted!
Article 152 make it clear that while Bahasa Malaysia is promoted, the other languages’ constitutional right and place are safeguard and guaranteed!
Basically, the fears of the Chinese community about the place and future of Chinese language, education and culture in Malaysia are well-founded, because of the growing fixation of government leaders to implement a ‘One Language, One Culture’ Policy. The other reason is the string of broken promises and assurances about Chinese language, education and culture in Malaysia.
The Education Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, is having a dialogue with 15 National Chinese Organisations on Chinese education tomorrow. He should explain why a solemn promise given by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, that Section 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act would be amended in the first parliamentary meeting after the general elections last year was not honoured. If the Prime Minister’s own solemn undertaking could be broken, how could the Chinese community have great faith in the promises and assurances by other Ministers?
DAP calls for a four-step process involving fullest public participation in the review and amendment of 1961 Education Act
The Education Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, should be aware that the ‘secretive’ and ‘surreptitious’ review of the 1961 Education Act has caused great concern and anxiety, especially in view of the government’s record in not giving the public and Parliament adequate time to study government bills and other legislative proposals.
To allay these fears, I call on Anwar Ibrahim to demonstrate that he is open-minded by instituting a four-step process in the review and amendment of the 1961 Education Act which would involve the fullest public participation:
StepOne: Representatives from Chinese educational bodies should be appointed to the committee
studying and reviewing the 1961 Education Act for recommendation to the Education Minister. Members of the public and other interested organizations should be welcome to submit representations and memorandum to this Committee.
Step Two: After the Minister of Education had received the Committee’s Report, and made up his mind
on the recommendations to be put to Cabinet, he should make public his decision in the form of Green Paper (i.e. on proposed government legislation). Members of the public and interested organizations should be allowed to make representations and views on the Green Paper to the Cabinet or Cabinet Committee before a decision is taken by the Cabinet.
Step Three: The Government should issue a White Paper on the Cabint’s decision on amendment to the
Education Act 1961, and allow at least two months for public debate before presentation to Parliament.
Step Four: Debate and decision in Parliament.
Amendments to the Education Act is an important matter, and should not be rushed or carried out in utmost secrecy. If the four–step process is followed, it will endure that all shades of public opinion on education would have a chance of being ventilated before a new Education Act is enacted.
DAP forms a five-man Parliamentary Group on Chinese language, education and culture
The DAP has formed a five-man Parliamentary Group on Chinese language, education had culture, comprising: Dr. Tan Seng Giaw (Chairman), (MP for Kepong), Chian Heng Kai (MP for Bukit Mertajam) Liew Ah Kim (MP for Si-Puteh), Lau Dak Kee (MP for Pasir Pinji) and Hu Sepang (MP for Rasah). We have also formed a three-man Indian language, education and culture parliamentary group, headed by Sdr. P. Patto (Mp for Ipoh) and comprising Sdr. Karpal Singh (MP for Jelutong) and Sdr. V.David (MP for Puchong).
Both of these parliamentary groups will liaise closely with Chinese and Indian communities, societies and organizations on the problems faced by Chinese and Indian languages, education and culture in Malaysia.
The DAP feels that the time has come for the convening of a National Conference on Chinese education, represented by political parties and Chinese organizations, to draw up a 20-year plan for the defence and promotion of Chinese education in Malaysia. For the past two decades, the Chinese community have to fight a piece-meal defence action against an unrealing erosion of the constitutional right and place of Chinese education in the country.
The Nation Conference on Chinese education should draw up a 20-year plan and strategy to ensure that we stop retreating all the time, or worse, take pride when we take one step forward after retreating three steps in each encounter!
I suggest that a protem reparatory committee for such a National Conference on Chinese Education for a Twenty-Year Plan be formed with representatives from political parties, Tung Chiau Chung and National Chinese Organisations to study the possibility. The DAP will give full support to such a National Conference.