Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung. Lim Kit Siang, at a DAP Tanjung dialogue dinner held at Winston Café, Anson Road, Penang on Wednesday, 30.9.1987 at 7.30 pm
DAP will launch a nation-wide ‘Save Chinese Primary Schools Campaign’ if the Education Ministry fails to resolve the problem of promoting those unversed in Chinese language as assistant headmasters and senior assistants of Chinese primary schools.
Last Friday, I gave the Education Ministry a two-week deadline to resolve the scandalous situation whereby those unversed in Chinese language were sent on promotion to Penang Chinese primary schools as assistant headmasters and senior assistants. This deadline will expire on 9th Oct. 1987. I had said that if this deadline expires without satisfactory resolution of this problem, the DAP will form an action committee to protest against such insensitive and deplorable decisions of the Education Ministry.
Since then, the issue of the Education Ministry sending those unversed in Chinese on promotion as assistant headmasters and senior assistants to Chinese primary schools has also become a big issue in Malacca State.
It is clear that this latest challenge to the character of Chinese primary schools cannot be regarded as a state problem peculiar to Penang or Malacca, but must be regarded as a national problem.
For this reason, I am giving notice that the Oct. 9 deadline for the Education Ministry to give satisfactory solution to the problem of sending those unversed in Chinese language to be assistant headmasters and senior assistants in Chinese primary schools, applies not just to Penang State, but to Malacca State and the whole country as well.
The DAP will launch a nation-wide ‘Save Chinese Primary Schools Campaign’ if the Education Ministry fails to resolve this problem satisfactorily in Penang, Malacca and wherever else it happened by Oct. 9, for there is no doubt that the sending of those unversed in Chinese language to be assistant headmasters and senior assistants in Chinese primary schools is the latest threat to the continued existence of Chinese primary schools without change of identity or character.
Chinese primary schools had for the last 26 years since the 1961 Education Act, which empowered the Education Minister to convert them into national primary schools with the stroke of the pen, been under great pressure to conform to the one-language education policy. The constitutional right of the Chinese primary schools had come under assault by a combination of legislative, administrative, political, financial measure for the last 26 years.
The latest move to send those unversed in Chinese language to become assistant headmasters and senior assistants in Chinese primary schools is clearly a new attempt to alter the identity and character of Chinese primary schools by administrative action. This move is very significant in the light of the present situation whereby the Barisan Nasional government had dishonoured the PRIME Minister;s general election pledge to amend Section 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act, and whereby the Education Ministry is undertaking a wholesale review of the 1961 Eduation Act without any participation or involvement of MCA and Gerakan Ministers or representatives.
It is for this reason that if the Education Ministry is not prepared to demonstrate its sincerity by immediately resolving the problem of sending those unversed in Chinese language to become assistant headmasters and senior assistants to chine primary schools, then the come has come for launching of a nation-wide ‘Save Chinese Primary Schools Campaign’ against erosion by legislative, political, administrative and financial measures.
I understand that the MCA Deputy Education Minister, Woog See Chin, is coming tomorrow to Penang to find out about these problems in Penang Chinese primary schools. What had Woog See Chin been doing in the last one month when the entire Penang Chinese community had been inflamed by the Education Ministry action?
Clearly, Woog See Chin cannot be effective if he needs one month to come to understand the problem. I do not expect Wong See Chin will be able to do anything, however, even if he comes here. He went to Malacca a few days ago on the same problem, and at the end of his visit to the Malacca Education Department, weakly confessed that he could do nothing.
It would appear that although he is the Deputy Education Minister, Wong See Chin has even less power than the Chief Education Officers in the 13 states.
The DAP will be setting up a committee to be responsible for the launching of the nation-wide “Save Chinese Primary Schools Campaign”, which will be patterned after the “Save Bukit China Campaign” in 1984, which succeeded in saving the most ancient and historic Chinese cemetry from destruction by the Malacca State Government.
The “Save Chinese Primary Schools Campaign”, which will seek to mobolise public support for the defence of Chinese primary schools from legislative, political, administrative and financial pressures to comform to a one-language education policy, will be an opportunity for all Malaysians to understand why the Malaysian Chinese have such strong feelings about their mother tongue and mother-tongue education.