(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders should not politicise the Vision School issue to create a second Suqiu-like political crisis in four months just for the sake of the UMNO special general assembly next Saturday.
In the past two weeks, there appears to be a deliberate campaign by UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders to escalate political temperatures to create a crisis atmosphere in the run-up to the UMNO special general assembly on November 18.
The UMNO special general assembly next Saturday is supposed to save UMNO from being thrown into the dustbin of history and learn from the important lesson from last Novemberís general election when UMNO suffered its worst election defeat in its party history, losing 16 Parliamentary seats and 55 State Assembly seats as compared to 1995.
The UMNO membership and the Malaysian people were given to understand that the UMNO leadership had realised the need for radical reforms in UMNO to win back to Malay heartland from PAS and Keadilan and that the first crucial step is to restore democracy in UMNO.
However, from the decisions of the UMNO Supreme Council, it is clear that the amendments to the UMNO Constitution to be tabled at the UMNO special general assembly would make UMNO even more undemocratic, centralising greater powers in the hands of the UMNO President especially with the proposal to have party national elections once in five years after the national general election.
UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders must be aware that the UMNO Supreme Councilís constitutional amendments on Saturday represent a severe throwback to greater authoritarian and feudal rule by the UMNO President and that the only way to distract the attention of UMNO delegates and the public is to create another crisis atmosphere, explaining the recent attempt to politicise the Vision School issue to create a second Suqiu-like crisis in four months.
The statement made by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday accusing Dong Jiao Zong of wanting a Chinese education system in the country which is un-Malaysian is not only baseless and most unfortunate, it is reminiscent of the Prime Ministerís 43rd Merdeka Day Message likening the supporters of the Malaysian Chinese Organisationsí Election Appeals Committee (Suqiu) to communists and communalists.
Mahathirís accusation that Dong Jiao "had never accepted anything about education in Malaysia" and in wanting a "China-type" Chinese education system is most insensitive, unfair and unfounded. Even more serious, it has reinforced and justified the widespread concerns about the true and hidden agenda of the Barisan Nasionalís Vision Schools.
The Chinese primary schools in Malaysia are completely different from the Chinese schools in China as they are part of the Malaysian national education system, follow the national curriculum, where Bahasa Malaysia is a compulsory subject and where there is a multi-racial student population. At present, there are about 65,000 non-Chinese students, making up 12 to 15 percent, in the Chinese primary schools in the country.
UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders should not undermine the multi-racial, multi- lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation-building process and framework by returning to the traditional divide-and-rule tactics of sowing ethnic suspicions and distrust among the different communities.
The Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Aziz Shamsuddin, has set a very bad example in this respect with his his outrageous attack on those who question and oppose the Barisan Nasional governmentís Vision Schools plan as "disloyal" and "unpatriotic" and he should withdraw and apologise for such unwarranted and baseless accusations.
One important reason why Malaysia has been losing out in the battle for international competitiveness, even lagging behind other countries in the region in attracting foreigh direct investment, threatening the various national economic and development goals as leapfrogging into the information age and K-economy, is the extremist politics of UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders in a multi-racial society.
UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders should end their politics of extremism for the nationís sake, stop looking at issues from narrow communal angle but emulate Keadilan and PAS leaders in fully accepting Malaysiaís multi-racial, multi- lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious character and identity, whether in education or in any other field of national endeavour.