Speech by Penang Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Assemblyman, for Padang Kota, Lim Kit Siang, in the Penang State Assembly on Wednesday, 8th June 1994
Penang, with the sole Chinese Chief Minister, should set the example for other state governments in providing regular financial support to Chinese Independent Secondary Schools
Gerakan leaders are fond of claiming that they have the sole Chinese Chief Minister in the country. As the sole Chinese Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu.Koon should have set the example for all other state governments in the country in providing regular financial support to Chinese Independent Secondary Schools.
There should have been no need for the DAP to move a motion second time in three-and-a-half years in the Penang State Assembly requiring the Penang Chief Minister to perform his duty and responsibility to make annual state government financial allocations to the Chinese Independent Secondary Schools.
Unfortunately, although Gerakan leaders never stop of boasting of having the sole Chinese Chief Minister in the country, the Gerakan Penang State Chief Minister has lost out to the former Sabah PBS State Government and Chief Minister, Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan, whose government made annual financial allocations to Sabah’s Chinese Independent Secondary Schools.
Yet, Tsu Koon had to cheek to go to Sabah in the recent Sabah State General general elections to campaign against Joseph Pairin Kitingan among supporters of Chinese Independent Secondary Schools – when the Gerakan’s Penang State Government record in financial assistance to Chinese Independent Secondary Schools in the state has no comparison with that of the PBS State Government.
In fact, Tsu Koon’s performance on this matter is worse than that of UMNO Mentri Besars in some states, who gave financial allocations to Chinese Independent Secondary Schools although this would be before a general elections, when they play the ‘Chinese education’ card to fish for votes from the Chinese electorate.
As a result of relentless pressure from the DAP and to anticipate this DAP motion, Tsu Koon has announced that the Penang State Government will allocate about RM300,000 to the Chinese Independent Secondary Schools during the period he became Chief Minister.
However, he will not be giving in cash to the Chinese Independent Secondary Schools like the previous Sabah State Government of Joseph Pairin Kitingan or the UMNO1 Mentri-Mentri Besar in other states when they played the ‘Chinese education’ card.
Tsu Koon is only making financial contributions from the State Government in kind in chairs, tables, television sets, etc.
This is completely unsatisfactory, and Tsu Koon should support the DAP motion before the State Assembly that the State Government make annual financial allocation of RM200,000 to each Chinese Independent Secondary School in Penang State, and this to take effect from 1991.
As the ‘sole Chinese Chief Minister’, Tsu Koon should realise his special responsibility to support Chinese education, Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and Chinese -primary schools.
Chinese education, whether Chinese secondary, schools or Chinese primary schools, are facing more favourable circumstances as compared to the earlier decades in the nation-building experience.
DAP rejects Gerakan cultural policy which opposed Malaysian Chinese literature being recognised as Malaysian literature because it is written in Chinese and not in Bahasa Malaysia
Chinese education in Malaysia faced its most dangerous times in the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, where extremist political forces which reject the fundamental nation-building principle that Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi¬cultural and multi-religious society tried to establish a ‘one-language, one-culture, one-religion Malaysia’.
These intolerant, extremist and chauvinistic political forces reject Chinese education system as an integral part of the Malaysian education process, just as there are those who reject Malaysian Chinese literature as part of Malaysian literature on the ground that it is written in Chinese and not in Bahasa Malaysia.
I still remember my great cultural debate in 1968 with the Gerakan leaders who refused to accept Malaysian Chinese literature as part of Malaysian literature – providing a clear demarcation line between DAP policies and Gerakan policies.
DAP rejects Gerakan cultural policy which opposed Malaysian Chinese literature being recognised as Malaysian literature because it is written in Chinese and not in Bahasa Malaysia.
This was why the DAP was alone in Parliament in the seventies and eighties to defend Chinese education, Chinese Independent Secondary Schools arid Chinese primary schools from attempts to eliminate them from the Malaysia.
I still remember the Parliamentary debate in 1972 where the DAP opposed the amendment to the 1961 Education Act to abolish Boards of Managements of Chinese primary schools, while the Gerakan leaders in direct contrast gave full support to the amendment bill in Parliament!
If DAP had not stood firm in our defence of the fundamental principle of Malaysia as a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-relgious nation, the Vision 2020 proclaimed by Mahathir in 1991 would be a very different Vision 2020
There is no doubt that if not for the great political struggle and sacrifices of the DAP for Chinese education, Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and Chinese primary schools, particularly in Parliament when we stood completely alone on this issue, Chinese education, Chinese Independent secondary schools and Chinese primary schools would not be facing the more favourable circumstances prevailing today.
DAP political leaders paid heavy political sacrifices for our commitment – like the DAP MP for Bukit Mertajam and Assemblyman for Bukit Tengah, Chian Heng Kai, being incarcerated under the Internal Security Act for four years and nine years. I myself was detained twice under the Internal Security Act.
But if the DAP had not stood firm in the 1970s and the first half of the eighties for a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia, where Chinese education is an integral part of the national education system, the Vision 2020 announced by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir in February 1991 would have been a very different Vision 2020!
We are misleading ourselves however if we believe that the more favourable circumstances for Chinese education, Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and Chinese primary schools has resolved all the problems faced by Chinese education and that it would never again face the grave threat it experienced in the seventies and eighties.
After all, the ‘ultimate objective’ of the National Education Policy has remained and has not been repealed.
I do not want to get into a policy debate on education policy in the State Assembly, as it is not the proper forum.
What I want to ask is that the Penang State Government should set the example to provide Chinese education to all other state governments by giving full and meaningful effect to Article 152 (1)(b) of the Malaysian Constitution which states:
“152. National Language.
(1) The national language shall be the Malay language and shall be in such script as Parliament may by law provide:
Provided that –
(b) nothing in this clause shall prejudice the right of the Federal Government or any State Government to preserve and sustain the use and study of the language of any other community in the Federation.”
By supporting this DAP motion, Tsu Koon and the Penang State Government will be giving full and meaningful effect to Article 152(l)(b) of the Malaysian Constitution, and be an example for all other State Governments to follow.
State Government commitment to make the five Penang Chinese , Independent Secondary Schools centres of excellence, not only for Malaysia .but also for the region
The State Government should take advantage of the more favourable situation for Chinese education to adopt this motion as a commitment to make the five Penang Chinese Independent Secondary Schools centre for excellence not only for Malaysia but also for the region.
This is why the DAP has called for a Charter for Chinese education which would represent the full recognition and commitment of the Federal and State Governments to the great contribution of Chinese education, Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and Chinese primary schools to nation building and national development, and which should contain the short-term, medium-term and long-term programmes of the Federal and State Governments to support the development and growth of Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and Chinese primary schools.
The Penang State Government should take the bold step to provide leadership and example in this new era. For instance, another step which the Penang State Government could take apart from supporting this DAP motion is to respond to the recent call that the state government should restore the Yeok Hwa Primary School in Balik Pulau which is on the verge of collapse.
Yeok Hwa Chinese primary school had been badly damaged by termites and its walls and roof could crumble any time.
Last year, the state Public Works Department notified the school authorities that the building was unfit for occupation.
The school needs RM800,000 for a new school building and has raised about RM200,000, which is still short of its target to build a 12-classroom school.
The Penang State Government should respond to the appeal and announce its approval of RM600,000 for the rebuilding of the Yeok Hwa Chinese Primary School.
In the past few years, there had been some liberalisation of education policies, and this is why I said that Chinese education is now placed in more favourable circumstances than in previous decades.
But these are minor and limited liberalisation measures, which must be reinforced with full and major liberalisation of all aspects of nation-building policies.
Economically, the State Government can help to propel the country towards such a full and major liberalisation by supporting the DAP motion to give annual financial allocation to Chinese Independent Secondary School and to undertake to rebuild the new Yoke Hwa Chinese Primary School in Balik Pulau with a grant of RM600,000.
DAP’s pull-out from MAPEN in 1989 and the 1990 general elections results are two further factors influencing the proclamation of Vision 2020
Gerakan leaders have often accused the DAP of ‘cowardice’ in pulling out of MAPEN in 1989, not realising that the DAP’s pull-out was in fact one factor in influencing the proclamation of Vision 2020 by the Prime Minister in February 1991.
DAP’s pull-out from MAPEN was a major assault against the extremist political forces which in the 1970s and 1980s wanted to create an ‘one-language, one-culture, one-religion’ Malaysia.
DAP decided that our pull-out from MAPEN would have greater impact, for it created a new political situation to check such extremist political forces.
The Gerakan accusation that DAP leaders are afraid to continue in MAPEN holds no water. What is there for DAP leaders to be afraid, when we are prepared to be detained for our beliefs and convictions, and we are prepared in Parliament to face UMNO leaders and the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed himself!
The DAP pull-out, from MAPBN and the 1990 general results where the MCA and Gerakan leaders arid candidates were decisively defeated were two further factors influencing the proclamation of Vision 2020 by Mahathir in February 1991.
Anwar’s favourite quote ‘We Are All In One Family’ cannot merely be words but must be proved by deeds
I therefore the ‘sole Chinese ‘Chief Minister’ in the country, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, to join the DAP in helping to usher Chinese education into a new era.
Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is fond of the Chinese phrase ‘We Are All In One Family’ at Chinese audiences. However, ‘We Are All In One Family’ must not be merely words but must be reflected in deeds.
What better way to show that ‘We Are All In One Family’ by the Penang Chief Minister and State Government the DAP motion to give annual financial allocation to the Chinese Independent Secondary Schools in Penang as well as allocating RM600,000 for the restoration of Yeok Hwa Chinese Primary School in Balik Pulau.