By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Malacca on Saturday, 21.8.1987:
Call on University of Malaya Senate to held emergency meeting to suspend its decision banning Chinese and Tamil as medium of instruction for elective courses to end the spiraling racial polarization in the University of Malaya campus.
Racial polarization in the University of Malaya campus has spiralled to a very serious proportion, and must be a cause of great concern to all Malaysians as well as the government.
The University of Malaya Senate should have realized that it has to be especially careful when touching on the sensitivities of the languages and cultures of a multi-racial population in Malaysia, and must bear full responsibility for the raising of racial temperatures inside and outside the campus for its short-sighted, ill-considered and highly provocative decision to ban Chinese an Tamil languages as medium of instruction for elective courses.
The MCA, Gerakan and MIC Ministers must also bear responsibility for the prolongation of the University of Malaya elective course controversy, because of their failure to get the matter resolved at the highest level although it is coming to nearly two months since the Senate took the decision.
Mare than a month age, the MCA and MIC Ministers raised the issue in the Cabinet, but the people were informed that the Cabinet did not discuss the issue at length, and had instead left the matter to be resolved by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed.
This is a most irregular and irresponsible manner for the Cabinet to do, for it is highest decision-making body in the Government – higher than the office of Prime Minister itself. It smocks of ‘passing the ‘buck’ and finding an excuse for ‘inaction’, which seems to be confirmed by the events of over a month where the Prime Minister showed no interest or inclination to intervene.
The Education Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, must also bear responsibility for his failure to communicate with the University of Malaya Senate to express the grave implications of the decision on elective courses. Instead, the Education Minister seemed to be providing support to the Senate and even University of Malaya students who demonstrated in support of the Senate decision.
On Tuesday, Education Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, accused the DAP of hypocrisy for talking about academic freedom and yet clamoring that academicians’ decisions be changed to suit them.
He asked rhetorically: “Since when does the DAP determine what courses or subjects should be taught in universities.”
There is nothing hypocritical in the DAP stand that the University of Malaya elective courses should have their previous medium of instruction restored, for we are not trying to determine what courses or subjects should be taught at universities. What we are trying to do is to prevent the University of Malaya Senate from trespassing into policy areas already decided and entrenched in the Constitution of Malaysia, and which has nothing to do with academic freedom whatsoever.
I challenge Anwar Ibrahim to state whether the Education Ministry, the UMNO Youth, in fact the entire UMNO, would react or not if the University of Malaya decide that for the next five years, the medium of instruction for the Faculty of Medicine be in English, or will they claim that this is the academicians’ prerogative? It is Anwar Ibrahim and not the DAP who is being hypocritical on the University of Malaya elective course issue.
The recent demonstration by a group of University of Malaya students, with their racist and sedition outbursts against other racial student groups, have inflamed the campus situation and must be dealt with most severely by the University of Malaya authorities if it is not to lose all public creditability and confidence.
MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Dr. Ling Liong Sik, said yesterday that all parties should ‘cool off’ on the issue of University of Malaya elective courses. I agree that there should be a ‘cooling-off’ period, but this can only be achieved if the cause of the ‘heat-up’ is removed.
For this reason, I call on the University of Malaya authorities to cease to be in an ‘ivory tower’ and be conscious of its larger national and social responsibilities to create the conditions where there could be a ‘cooling off’ of the controversy it has created. This can be done by the University of Malaya authorities suspending the implementation of the decision to abolish Chinese and Tamil languages as medium of instruction as optional courses, until further review and reconsideration.
Call on Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, to order priority in the investigation and prosecution of Fahmi Ibrahim for sedition offences to stop the trend to question the constitutional rights and position of Chinese and Tamil languages in the country.
Yesterday, the DAP National Task Force for 1990s Movement, through its secretary Lim Guan Eng (MP for Kota Melaka) and publicity secretary, Kerk Kim Hock (Malacca Assemblyman), ledged a police report against UMNO Youth Education Bureau chief and Selangor Assemblyman, Fahmi Ibrahim, for sedition offences in questioning the constitutional rights and position of Chinese and Tamil languages in the country.
The statement by Fahmi Ibrahim at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday was the most serious challenge to the constitutional rights and position of Chinese and Tamil languages in the country in the last 18 years, and must not go unchallenged. Otherwise, it would open a flood-gate of unrestrained challenge to the position of Chinese and Tamil languages in the country.
In his press conference, Fahmi Ibrahim made two highly inflammatory and seditions statements:
Firstly, that apart from Bahasa Malaysia, the other languages are in a “transitional existence” that should be phased out gradually; and
Secondly, that it was not the Government’s responsibility to develop other languages; as “it is up to them (each race) to maintain and preserve their own language.”
This is the first time that any UMNO or UMNO Youth leader had openly challenged the second limb of Article 152 which guarantees the constitutional place of Chinese and tamil languages, and is clearly a ‘testing of the waters’ whether it could lead to a wider front of assault on the constitutional positions of Chinese and Tamil languages.
Fahmi Ibrahim’s press conference statement constitute two sedition offences, for it challenges two provisions in Article 152 of the Malaysian Constitution, which is classified as ‘sensitive’ issue, and whoever challenges or questions it is guilty of an offence under the 1948 Sedition Act which entails disqualification of an MP or Assemblyman for five years.
The two seditious challenges made by Fahmi Ibrahim are:
Firstly, Article 152(1)(a) that “no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (otherwise than for
official purposes) or from teaching or learning, any other language.” This guarantee makes it clear that Chinese and Tamil languages are not ‘transitory’ but ‘permanent’ and ‘eternal’ languages, and anyone questions this is committing sedition;
Secondly, Article 152(1)(b) that “nothing…shall prejudice the right of the Federal Government or of any
State Government to preserve and sustain the use and study of the language of any other community in the Federation.” Fahmi has challenged this ‘sensitive’ guarantee of government support for the other languages, when he claimed that it is not the government’s responsibility to ‘develop’ other languages.
Fahmi Ibrahim gave a press conference to openly challenge these two constitutional guarantees for Chinese and Tamil languages, and we must assume that it represented not Fahmi Ibrahim’s personal view, but the considered view of the UMNO Youth Education Bureau.
We must make it clear that no challenges to the constitutional position and rights of the Chinese and Tamil languages would be tolerated, and for this reason, I call on the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talin Othman, to give priority to the police investigation and prosecution of Fahmi Ibrahim for sedition offences to stop the trend to question the constitutional rights and positions of Chinese and Tamil languages in the country.
Fahmi Ibrahim is a Selangor Assemblyman, and on conviction for sedition, he should be disqualified as a Assemblyman, and disallowed from standing for Parliament, State Assembly or any other elective office for five years.
We also call on MCA, Gerakan and MIC Ministers and leaders to take the most serious view of the position taken by UMNO Youth Education Bureau, and to demand:
1. That the UMNO Youth repudiate the position enunciated by Fahmi Ibrahim and reiterate its commitment to Article 152(1)(a) and (b) on the constitutional rights and guarantees to the Chinese and Tamil languages;
2. That Fahmi Ibrahim and UMNO Youth Education Bureau should openly apologise for questioning the constitutional rights and guarantees to Chinese and Tamil languages; and
3. That they raise the matter in Cabinet to issue a directive to UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders to stop the trend to question the constitutional rights and position of Chinese and Tamil languages.