Call on education minister to learn more from the divisive history of the 1961 Education Act and ensure that the new 1995 Education Bill is accepted by all races and language groups in the country as an instrument of national unity.


Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, at the opening of the Federal Territory DAP state Convention in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 29th October 1995 at 10 a.m.

Call on education minister to learn more from the divisive history of the 1961 Education Act and ensure that the new 1995 Education Bill is accepted by all races and language groups in the country as an instrument of national unity.

It is most disturbing that although the Barisan Nasional Government has taken some ten years to finalise the new Education Bill 1995, which it said would be presented to parliament in December for adoption, the new Education Bill 1955 and three other new education bills governing higher education and private education institutions have not been made public for study and feedback.

In the past forty years, the issues of education and the 1961 Education Act had been very divisive and contentions issues because of the “ultimate objective” of the national education Policy and the “one language, one culture” nation-building policy.

I call on the education minister, Datuk Najib Tun Razak, to learn from the divisive history of the 1961 Education Act, particularly the 34-year history of the controversy over Section 21(2) concerning the position and future of Chinese primary schools as well as Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and ensure that the new 1995 Education Bill is accepted by all races and language groups in the country as an instrument of national unity and modernization to turn Malaysia into a developed nation.

I have not seen the new 1995 Education Bill but I am told that it is not very different from the previous 1990 Education Bill edition.

If this is the case, then it raises the question as to why the Barisan Nasional Government was not prepared to present to enact the Education Bill in 1990 but prepared to enact it now in 1995?

Has this any connection with the results of the 1990 and 1995 general elections – where after the 1990 general election, MCA leaders including its President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik, had openly declared that they did not know what the Chinese community wanted, but after the 1995 general election, MCA leaders are behaving as if what they wanted is what the Chinese community should want!

The landslide election victory of Barisan Nasional in the April general election has bred a Barisan Nasional “five-sixty majority arrogance” which is increasingly contemptuous of public accountability and transparency

The refusal of the Barisan Nasional government to ensure that the Malaysian public have adequate time of at least two months to study and give feedback on the new 1995 Education Bill is unbefitting of an administration that professes to uphold the principles of accountability and transparency.

It is in fact one undesirable outcome of the landslide victory of the Barisan Nasional in the April 1995 general election, giving the Barisan Nasional not only a five-sixty majority in parliament but breeding an arrogance in the Barisan Nasional Government that it knows what the best for the country and people and which is increasingly contemptuous of the principles of accountability and transparency.

This “five-sixty majority arrogance” of the Barisan Nasional is why parliament and amended the Parliamentary standing orders to curtail and undermine the role of Opposition MPs to provide a “check and balance” against government abuses and malpractices.

It is this Barisan Nasional “five-sixty majority arrogance” which has bred in the Barisan Nasional a contempt for the constitutional rights of the people of bukit bintang to elect an MP of their choice – and why the MCA feels no shame in sending a “pretender” to the Dewan Rakyat through the backdoor claiming to be the elected MP for Bukit Bintang when the voters of Bukit Bintang had decisively rejected him in the April general election.

It is again this Barisan Nasional “five-sixty majority arrogance” why the Barisan Nasional Government is going ahead with the RM15 billion Bakun dam prohect – the single biggest privatisation project in the country – without proper account – ability and transparency in the decision-making process with regard to its long-term socio-economic, environmental, financial and technical considerations.

In fact, up to now, many fundamental questions about the Bakun dam project remain unanswered – whether it is about the financial viability and technical feasibility of the project, the dislocation and uprooting of the indigenous communities in Sarawak or whether proper studies had been made about various aspects of the Bakun dam such as whether it could trigger off earthquakes.

The promise by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in August to make public all the studies which the Government had commissioned on Bakun has still to be honoured and up to now, only the first part of four EIA reports for the Bakun dam project had been approved.

Yet the Government is rushing through the Bakun dam project as if there is nothing in the world which could stop its implementation.

Now Malaysians again face this Barisan Nasional “five-sixty majority arrogance” in the government refusal to make public the new 1995 Education Bill and to give adequate time of at least two months for public study, consultation and feedback.

Call on education ministry to provide safeguards to ensure that the proposal to make mandarin as part of the primary school timetable will not undermine the position and future of Chinese primary schools in Malaysia.

The Education Minister, Datuk Najib Tun Razak must realise that the government must be sensitive to the suspicions and fears of the Chinese community in general and the Chinese educationists in particular about government intentions with regard to the position and future of Chinese primary schools and Chinese Independent Secondary Schools.

This is why, for instance, there is very guarded reaction to the announcement by Najib early this month that Mandarin and Tamil languages would become part of the primary school timetable in national primary schools and would be taught to pupils of all races if there is demand.

I have been making this proposal in Parliament since the 1970s and 1980s, and I welcome this belated acceptance of my proposal in Parliament, for it is a recognition that Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation and that Mandarin must be regarded as one of the Malaysian languages and not a foreign language anymore.

I would even go further and call on the Minister for Education to ensure that the new Education Bill 1995 also accept another one of the proposals which I had raised in Parliament in the seventies and eighties – which is to introduce Pupil’s own Religion’ in primary and secondary schools where our students would be given religious instruction according to their religion or choice. At present, only Islam is part of the school time-table and not the other religious.

However, while I personally welcome the proposal to make mandarin and Tamil part of the school timetable in national primary schools, I would want the Education Minister to fully understand and be sensitive to the suspicions and fears that is should be be implement in a manner as to undermine and erode the position and future of Chinese primary school

Chinese primary schools are already presently faced with a crisis of shortage of 3,00 trained teachers and questions are legitimately asked as to how the government could implement the proposal to make Mandarin part of the school timetable in national primary schools when it could not even ensure adequate trained teachers for the Chinese primary schools.

There is also the fear that good Mandarin teachers may be transferred from Chinese primary schools to national primary schools to implement the proposal to make Mandarin part of the school timetable, which would result in the undermining of public confidence in the Chinese primary schools.

I call on Education Ministry to provide safeguards to ensure that the proposal to make Mandarin as part of the school timetable will not undermine the position and future of Chinese primary schools in Malaysia.

These safeguards must be worked out as a joint endeavor by the Ministry of education and the Chinese educational bodies like Dong Zhao Zhong and should be presented to parliament as part of the overall educational reforms of which the new Education Bill 1955 is the main feature.

Call on MCA, Gerakan and SUPP Ministers to propose at Wednesday’s Cabinet the formation of an education al consultative council with the specific task of dispelling all suspicious and fears that the spirit of Section 21(2) would be implemented under the new Education Bill

It is for this reason that I had suggested the establishment of an education consultative committee comprising the education Ministry and Chinese educational representatives with the specific task of dispelling all suspicious and fears that although Section 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act had been repealed, its spirit would be implemented through other provisions in the new Education Bill.

I would also call on MCA, Gerakan and SUPP Ministers to propose at Wednesday’s Cabinet the formation of an educational consultative council with the specific task of dispelling all suspicious and fears that the spirit of Section 21(2) would be implemented under the new Education Bill.

DAP has formed a education legislation Committee under DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Kepong, Dr. Tan seng Glaw, to study the four seats of new education legislation which would be presented to the current meeting of Parliament.

Malaysians who have views about these four sets of educational legislation are invited to send in their views to the Committee headed by Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, which would also convene meetings and dialogues so that the views and concerns of all Malaysians about the important subjects of education could be fully ventilated when the new educational bills are debated in parliament.