Hon Choon Kim should visit UTM to meet the administrators and students to resolve the controversy over ban on Chinese New Year exhibition amicably by withdrawing show-cause letters to three student organisers

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): It is most shocking that two weeks after the controversy which has tarnished the image of the university, the University Technologi Malaysia (UTM) Vice Chancellor Datuk Dr. Ahmad Zaharuddin Idrus could be so obtuse as to explain that the UTM rejected an application by a group of students to hold an exhibition on campus as it did not reflect a multiracial spirit. (Star 2.3.2000).

How does Ahmad Zaharruddin want the Chinese New Year exhibition to "reflect a multiracial spirit"?  Can he explain whether Hari Raya, Deepavali or Christmas celebrations must also be banned on the campus because they also do not "reflect a multiracial spirit"?

By his logic, the country should cancel public holidays for Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali and Christmas because none of them "reflect a multiracial spirit"!

What Ahmad Zaharrudin does not understand is that the Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali and Christmas are part of the Malaysian cultural mosaic and it is by involving all Malaysians regardless of race, religion and culture in these celebrations that transform these events into trans-cultural and  trans-ethnic national celebrations  larger than their  original cultural beginnings.

To suggest, for instance, that the Chinese New Year exhibition be held in June is the height of cultural and ethnic insensitivity which should never happen in any university administration - for it would be equally offensive and unacceptable if anyone had suggested that a Hari Raya celebration be postponed till August, Christmas function to May and the Deepavali festivities to March.

It is most regrettable that the Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Hon Choon Kim had failed to get the UTM administration to be more sensitive and respectful of cultural diversity in Malaysia, although he had more than once made comments on the matter.

However, the job of a Deputy Education Minister is not just to make media comments but to rectify injustices coming under his Ministry.

In Parliament, Hon had been completely marginalised in the division of labour of parliamentary duties for the Education Ministry. The Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad has said that he is taking on the "bigger roles such as presenting a new Bill in Parliament or replying to points raised during the debate on 2000 Budget" while the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, Datuk Dr. Mahadzir Mohd Khir is handling the "question-and-answer" session.

There is nothing left in Parliament for Hon to do.

Hon should visit UTM to meet the administrators and students to resolve amicably the controversy over the  ban on Chinese New Year exhibition by withdrawing show-cause letters issued to three student organisers.

Hon should ensure that the three show-cause letters to three student organisers of the Chinese New Year exhibition,  Lee Khai Loon, Liew Weng Kong and Cheong Soon Aun  are retracted by the UTM and a mechanism established to allow for student democracy in the campus and where student grievances against UTM insensitivity against student activism could be channelled and addressed.

Hon  should also  investigate into the complaints by UTM students of a long history of high-handed and insensitive UTM administration policy towards student democracy and cultural diversity, to the extent that one ex-UTM student  lamented on the Internet the waste of talents at the UTM as "the students who go there  are really bright and have the potential to be the best not just in the region, but the world".

This UTM graduate said that "one important lesson I learned there (UTM) is how the whole system in our beloved country is ruining the immense potential of its youth by restricting the basic need to develop an assertive and creative society".


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman