Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the Perak DAP Ceramah on the Education Bill 1990 held at Chin Woo Athletic Hall, Ipoh on Tuesday, 22nd May 1990 at 8 p.m.
Call on Chinese community to be vigilant of the traditional ‘three steps forward, one step backward’ stance in the Education Bill 1990
Education Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, said yesterday that he could not understand why the Chinese community insist on maintaining Boards of Management of ‘fully-aided’ Chinese primary schools when they are ‘empty and hollow’, as they do not have any real administrative powers, such as appointment of teachers.
Anwar further said that he also could not understand why the Chinese community does not trust the government to fully empower it to deal with all school administrative matters.
It is a sad commentary that after being Education Minister for four years, Anwar still does not understand and respect the deep-¬seated and legitimate aspirations of the Chinese community with regard to their mother-tongue education.
The Chinese community must be surprised that the MCA and Gerakan leaders have not communicated their deep-seated and legitimate aspirations to the Education Minister.
What is even more shocking is his attempt to give the matter a communal angle, when he said that it should not appear as though the changes made were the result of demands by the other races and without the Malays having their own stand.
As far as the issue of the proposed abolition of the Boards of Management of the 432 Chinese primary schools and the preservation of the character of Chinese primary schools is concerned, the Chinese community is not making any demands at the expense of any other commu¬nity, but to preserve the status quo. It is most irresponsible on the part of the Education Minister to suggest that there is a communal angle in this issue,
Anwar said that some people only think in terms of their own communities in discussions on the Education Bill 1990.
If this is the case, then Anwar has only himself to blame. As a result of the secrecy in the whole process in the formulation of the Education Bill 1990, the public had been kept in the dark about its contents and purposes.
The Chinese community could only get partial information about the Education Bill 1990 through selective revelation by the Barisan Nasional leaders. As the government shows distrust of the Malaysian public and the Chinese educational bodies in refusing to take them into its confidence about the Education Bill 1990, although it is to be presented to Parliament for adoption in three weeks’ time, it is not surprising that the public and the Chinese educational bodies reciprocated this distrust.
This is why assurances and promises by MCA Ministers Deputy Ministers mean nothing and are not worthless.
When Deputy Education Minister, Woon See Chin, announced that the Boards of Management of the 432 Chinese primary schools would be abolished after the amendment of the 1961 Education Act, it was natural that the Chinese educational bodies and the Chinese commu¬nity react as one to oppose any such abolition.
If there is no reaction by the Chinese educational bodies and the Chinese community, such a passive attitude would be quoted as agreement and approval by the Chinese community to the abolition of the Boards of Management of Chinese primary schools.
Up to this stage, I have my doubts as to the real motive of the announcement by Woon See Chin about the abolition of the Board of Management of 432 Chinese primary schools under the Education Bill 1990.
Is this a ‘smokescreen’ and a camouflage of other provi¬sions as detrimental or even more damaging to the preservation of the character of Chinese primary schools in the new Education Bill 1990, which the government has refused to make public after all these years?
Is it an elaborate plan to create a situation where the Barisan Nasional Government would announce that more time is needed to consider the proposals for the 1990 Education Bill, so that the whole Bill, including the repeal of Section 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act, is deferred indefinitely until after the next general elections?
The Chinese community must be vigilant of the traditional tactic of ‘three steps forward, one step backward’ in the history of parliamentary legislation with regard to Chinese education.
MCA and Gerakan leaders are adept in playing this role. When there is a three-step erosion of the status of Chinese education in Malaysia, MCA and Gerakan leaders will put up a great ‘struggle’. When they secure a ‘one-step’ concession, this is pictured as a great victory of the MCA and Gerakan leaders, ignoring the sum effect of ‘three steps forward, one step backward’ is still a two-step, erosion of the status of Chinese education in Malaysia.
Anwar yesterday hit out at those seeking to politicise education and the Education Bill 1990.
In actual fact, those most guilty of ‘politicising’ educa¬tion are the Barisan Nasional leaders in UMNO, MCA, Gerakan and MIC. When there is general elections or by-elections, who go round promis¬ing $50,000 or $100,000 development funds for this Chinese primary school or that in the constituency concerned?
Why is the Ministry of Education only aware of the needs of Chinese primary schools for more classrooms, better facilities and more development funds, when there are by-elections or general elections, and completely oblivious of their needs during ordinary times?
This is because the Barisan Nasional has completely politi¬cised the educational issue, especially with regard to Chinese schools and Chinese education.
Who are the members of the Cabinet
If education is to be politicised, then it is the Barisan Nasional parties which must set the example, for they are the worst culprits.
When the country is to have a new Education Bill for the future generations, the public must have ample time and opportunity to study and debate the government’s proposals.
The Chinese community for instance must be given the right and opportunity to give their views on education, including Chinese education, to the Government. If over the years, Chinese education in Malaysia had taken ten steps backwards, then in a review for a new Education Act, the government must consider the Chinese community’s aspirations for the retracing of these ten steps; and not be placed in a position where they could only debate whether there is going to be a eleventh step backward as a result of the Education Bill 1990.
This is why DAP insists that the Barisan Nasional govern¬ment must be open with its proposals for the new Education Bill, and should not shroud it under the Official Secrets Act as if it is some deadly secret weapon.