Speaking at the opening of an education seminar for national-type Chinese schools headmasters in Seri Kembangan, Selangor yesterday, Mahathir said that while subjects in Chinese primary schools are taught in their mother tongue, there was no lack of loyalty and love for the country being instilled among the students.
The Prime Minister also praised teachers in Chinese primary schools whom he said were seen as more serious in providing knowledge to their pupils.
I am particularly glad that the Prime Minister has openly credited students and teachers in Chinese primary schools with having equal patriotism and loyalty to the nation despite the use of mother tongue, as this has been the consistent message of the DAP since our establishment 33 years ago - a consistency which has led to my being detained twice under the Internal Security Act for a total of 35 months and the persecution and victimisation of other DAP leaders like Chan Kok Kit and Chian Heng Kai, both of whom were detained for four years and nine months under the ISA.
This is a far cry from the early years of the DAP in the sixties when we had to battle against those who question the loyalty and patriotism of Chinese Malaysians simplying for speaking or wanting to learn and study their mother tongue, and there was even a Cabinet Minister who described Mandarin as "Mao Tse Tungís language"!
DAP feels proud that as a result of our consistent political struggle over the past three decades, and despite being in the Opposition all this time,we have been able to influence change in nation-building policies from that of "one nation, one language" to a recognition that Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious society.
Although we have travelled considerable distance in laying the foundation that Malaysian nation-building must be based on our multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious heritage, we still have a long journey to go before we can arrive at our destination.
I am still waiting for the day when Mahathirís recognition that students and teachers in Chinese primary schools have equal patriotism and loyalty as other Malaysians despite the use of their mother tonguer as their medium of instruction would be equally extended to the 60 Chinese Independent Secondary Schools, and for such recognition to be translated into concrete terms in the form of direct as well as fair governmental financial support for these institutions.
Referring to the appeal by Chinese schools for the Governmentís help in resolving problems such as the shortage of teachers, textbooks, workbooks and schools, Mahathir said that "everyone has to remember that they cannot demand everything for themselves".
He said if every race demanded everything for itself but the country was not peaceful and did not progress, it would end up getting nothing. It would be more meaningful, he added, if each race had a smaller share but in an economy which was growing.
I would agree with the Prime Minister that it will not be possible for any government to meet all the demands of every race, and if the Chinese community is demanding "everything for themselves" in appealling for the Governmentís help in resolving problems such as the shortage of teachers, textbooks, workbooks and schools faced by Chinese schools, then it is not possible for such an appeal to be met.
But this is not the case. The Chinese are not "asking everything for themselves", but only a fair allocation of public funds after decades of neglect of the developmental needs of Chinese primary schools.
For instance, I had proposed during my three-hour speech on the 2000 Budget in Parliament on Monday the end of unfair government treatment of Chinese schools and to put them on par with the national primary schools in terms of financial allocation.
In the past four decades, Chinese primary schools received only a small fraction of funds from the government for school development - creating a situation where Chinese primary school pupils had been forced to collect funds from the public. This problem is even more acute for the 60 Chinese Independent Secondary Schools which is completely dependent on support from the Chinese community.
On behalf of DAP, I had proposed in Parliament on Monday that the Government make a RM1 billion special allocation for the 1,200 Chinese primary schools and 60 Chinese Independent Secondary Schools to be paid out in the next five years in recognition of their contribution to nation-building.
Each of the 60 Chinese Independent Secondary School should be allocated RM1 million a year and each Chinese primary school allocated RM100,000 from this special allocation, over and above their usual allocations.
Is the RM1 billion special allocation for Chinese primary schools and Chinese Independent Secondary Schools for the next five years a "asking everything for themselves" syndrome and beyond the financial capacity of the government?
The answer is a strong "no" for both. The latest Auditor-Generalís Report on the Federal Government Accounts 1998 reveals that the Federal Government is owed over RM3.2 billion in unpaid loans arrears from the state governments, statutory bodies and government companies - and if these arrears are settled, there would be more than enough funds for the RM1 billion special allocation for Chinese education for the next five years.
Mahathirís enlightened recognition yesterday that students and teachers in Chinese primary schools have equal patriotism and loyalty to the nation despite the use of their mother tongue has strengthened my call in Parliament on Monday for the posthumous restoration of the citizenship for Lim Lian Geok.
Following logically from Mahathirís recognition, the nation and government
should also recognise that those who stood up over the decades for
Chinese education in Malaysia were not anti-national, unpatriotic, stooges
or pawns of the Chinese government whether in Beijing or Taiwan, but 100
per cent Malaysian patriots who believed that in a multi-racial,
multi-lingual, multi-religious and
They believed that nation-building in Malaysia must be by way of integration and not assimilation and that mother-tongue education whether Chinese or Indian must be defended and promoted in Malaysia, solely because they have become Malaysian languages and part of the rich heritage of all Malaysians.
In the past, Malaysian citizens who advocated that Chinese education should be recognized as an integral part of the Malaysian education system had been regarded as anti-national and disloyal, and it is time to rectify this unfortunate part of our history.
The late Lim Lian Geok is one such example. As leader of the Chinese education movement, he had always owed his loyalty to Malaya and later Malaysia and never had a second home in another country.
This was why when he was deprived of his Malayan citizenship because of his leadership of the Chinese education movement in the early 1960s, he never left the country for China and stayed in Malaysia for more than two decades until his final breath in 1985. This is the best testimony that when Lim Lian Geok stood up for Chinese education in Malaysia, he was doing it for the greater good of the people in this country and not for the interests of any foreign country or government.
I hope MCA, Gerakan and SUPP MPs will take inspiration from Mahathirís recognition yesterday and give support to my proposal for the posthumous restoration of the citizenship of Lim Lian Geok in the Parliamentary debate on the 2000 budget next week.