Mahathir should stop degrading the office of Prime Minister in making silly and unwarranted remarks as  blaming the Opposition for the four school-fire incidents

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): When he returned from overseas yesterday, the  Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr.  Mahathir Mohamad said he believed that incidents in which students allegedly started fire in schools occurred as they had been taught by certain parties to act that way.

He said that when children had been taught not to respect the law and to stage demonstrations, many of them would be inclined to take the law into their own hands.

He said: "They are brought up that way...there appears to be people exerting influence on children in kindergartens to hate the government and not to respect  anyone including teachers."
He alleged that there were parties teaching the people not to respect the law  and to stage demonstrations and to confront the police on the belief that the  government would not do anything.

Mahathir should stop degrading the office of Prime Minister in  making silly and unwarranted remarks as blaming the Opposition for the four school fire incidents, allegedly started by students.

If Mahathir  is looking for scapegoats to blame for the four school fire incidents, why didnít he mention the case of the No. One policeman who became a national villain - Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor who committed the supreme act of lawlessness of assaulting a blindfolded and handcuffed Anwar Ibrahim to an inch of his life in September 1998 while under police custody when as the Inspector-General of Police he should be the sworn custodian of law and order?

As a result, Rahim Noor not only inflicted the "black eye" on Anwar, but gave Malaysiaís international reputation a "black eye" as well as traumatised the whole new  generation of young  Malaysians in shaking  their faith in  system of justice, law and order in the country.

Mahathir should stop making silly rhetorical statements just to score political points against the Opposition.

What should be of great concern to Malaysians is the refusal of the government and in particular the Education Ministry to recognise that the  spate of juvenile delinquency and school indiscipline, including the stabbing of a seven-year-old Std. One girl  by another pupil who tried to extort 20 sen from her, is a reflection of the failure of the national  education system to produce good, useful and motivated citizens for tomorrow.

What is the root cause? Could this be due to the poor leadership models provided by leaders in government and society?

All that the Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin could say after visiting the seven-year-old victim of juvenile crime is to call on teachers, parents and the authorities to act immediately to overcome the problem of juvenile delinquency - an eloquent testimony of the failure  of  the Education Ministry in the first place to prevent the problem from reaching such a serious  magnitude.  Furthermore, the job of the deputy education minister is not just to make such a call but to put it into practice as otherwise what he said serves no other purpose apart from being  good Barisan Nasional mass media copy.

When seven months ago,  for the first time a  non-politician was appointed as Education Minister after the November general election last year, hopes were raised that there would be greater professionalism and dedication and less politicking in the education portfolio.  The new Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad even announced a revamp of the education system.

Seven  months have passed and Musa has nothing much to show for his educational reforms. All that  Malaysians have seen is an even more serious breakdown of school discipline and a startling  increase in juvenile delinquency.

Musa  has so far  come up with the knee-jerk reaction of bringing back the cane to allow teachers to deal with student misbehaviour and indiscipline.

There is no attempt to find out, involving parents, teachers, psychologists and other experts, why  student misbehaviour and indiscipline have become so rampant  and to develop an effective counter-strategy applicable for all schools in the country.

May be a study of the causes of student misbehaviour and indiscipline can start with  the four schools where the fires took place to come out with a comprehensive plan to deal with the problem instead of just focussing the entire debate on whether the Education Ministry should allow the teachers to bring back the cane or not. Otherwise, the government and society would only be dealing with the symptoms rather than the root of the problem.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman