(Petaling Jaya, Monday): Police harassment and arrests of 46 "Save Damansara School" walkers who took part in the 18-km Pudu (Kuala Lumpur)-Damansara "Save Damansara School" Walkathon must be condemned by all Malaysians as something is very wrong and rotten with Malaysia when a peaceful walkathon by ordinary Malaysians could be regarded as a grave threat to law, order and security as to justify high-handed police actions.
MCA Ministers should censure at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting police harassment and arrests of the 46 “Save Damansara School” walkers, get the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai to publicly apologise for the high-handed police actions and secure firm government guarantee to respect the civil and democratic rights of Malaysians to launch and conduct the “Save Damansara School” campaign.
The “Save Damansara School” campaign is receiving increasing support from Malaysians regardless of race, religion or political beliefs and the only people opposing and trying to sabotage the campaign are the Ministers and political leaders in MCA and the Barisan Nasional.
If in a democracy, the people are the bosses, the “Save Damansara School” is an important test as to whether in the Malaysian democracy, the “bosses” are the people or the MCA and the Barisan Nasional Ministers.
The "Save Damansara School Campaign" to preserve the original Damansara School and for a new Chinese primary school in Tropicana has highlighted the long-standing injustices and unfairness suffered by Chinese education under the Barisan Nasional government.
Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Hon Choon Kim has said that the new Damansara Chinese primary school at Tropicana would be completed in eight months. This is clearly the victory of the public pressure from the Damansara school controversy as Hon would not be able to give another example of a new Chinese primary school in the country being ordered by the Cabinet to be constructed in eight months.
There are however still many problems about the new Chinese primary school in Tropicana which have not been addressed, such as whether the site is appropriate and the safety of the students because the school would be under high-tension power cables.
Hon was being very irresponsible when he refused to address the concerns of parents about siting the new school under high-tension power cables. He should state what is the Education Ministry’s policy on the siting of schools under high-tension power cables, what are the schools in the country which are under high-tension power lines and whether MCA Ministers and Deputy Ministers would send their children to schools under high-tension power cables.
In any event, neither Hon nor any Barisan Nasional Minister could give one good reason why the original Damansara school with 25 classrooms should not continue to be used as a community school for the students in the immediate vicinity when it is still in very good condition.
Hon said the new Chinese primary school in Tropicana would have 36 classrooms and the capacity for 3,000 students. Instead of having primary schools crammed with thousands of students, it is better to have community schools with a more manageable size and within easy access of the students.
The original Damansara school can in fact become a model community Chinese primary school with a student population of about 600 pupils with class-size in the region of 30 students, allowing teachers to spend more time on the pupils and producing better results instead of treating schools as factories crammed with students like sardines.
The Damansara school controversy has also highlighted the long-standing refusal of the government to build new Chinese primary schools to meet increasing demands from pupils of all races - as there are now over 70,000 non-Chinese in the Chinese primary schools in the country.
During Independence in 1957, there were 1,333 Chinese primary schools with an enrolment of 310,000, but 43 years later, Chinese primary school enrolment has doubled to over 620,000. However, there is not only no matching doubling of the number of Chinese primary schools in the past four decades, there has been a reduction of some 50 Chinese primary schools instead to 1,284 schools.
It is time that areas which had been asking for years and decades for new Chinese primary schools like Johore Jaya, Wangsa Maju, Subang Jaya and Petaling Jaya should come forward not only to support the cause to preserve the original Damansara school, but for their long-neglected needs to be met by the government.