Urgent email to Mahathir and Ministers that Cabinet tomorrow address the inter-related controversies  of fair universities admissions, quality higher-education system, K-economy and Bangsa Malaysia to identify and repair the faultlines in our nation-building process to  lift Malaysians out of their communal cocoons to face the world competition as one people

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The national  controversy over fair universities admission for SPM and STPM top-scorers in the past month has been a great test of the resilience and success of the 43- year Malaysian nation-building process, the country’s commitment to the  Vision 2020 goal of a Bangsa Malaysia as well as our preparedness to make the transformation to a K-economy to be in the very forefront of nations in the new era to take full advantage of the Information Technology revolution.

The statements which have been made by Cabinet Ministers, in particular the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi and the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamed in the past month have  raised concerns as to whether the highest government leaders have the vision and the courage to rally and unite Malaysians as one people to  transcend their ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious differences, to turn outwards to  face the challenges of globalisation, liberalisation and information and communications technology (ICT).

This is because  the statements by the top government leaders in the past month have highlighted  the continuing serious  fault-lines in our multi-ethnic society.

However, Malaysians should try to turn the crisis into a new opportunity, and    effort should be  made to ensure that the Malaysian nation-building process and the national goals of a Bangsa Malaysia and a K-economy can profit from the fault-lines revealed by the recent controversy by a new national endeavour to  address and overcome the negative and divisive forces which constitute serious stumbling stocks to the success of Malaysia achieving the goals of a Bangsa Malaysia and a K-economy.

This is why I have sent an urgent email to the Prime Minister and all Ministers asking the Cabinet tomorrow to address the inter-related controversies of fair universities admissions, quality higher-education system, K-economy and Bangsa Malaysia to identify and repair the faultlines in the nation-building process  to  lift Malaysians out of the communal cocoons to face the world competition as one people.

The two contradictory statements made by Mahathir in a span of two weeks on the university quota system is the best illustration of the fault-lines in the Malaysian nation-building process - his statement a fortnight ago that the quota system for bumiputeras and non-bumiputeras for university admissions could be abolished to his statement after the UMNO Supreme Council meeting yesterday that the present bumiputra university quota will remain and the completely new argument that  the quota should be viewed in the light of student intake in private universities and colleges locally and abroad.

On Saturday, the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was reported by Mingguan Malaysia as “reminding” the DAP not to turn the bumiputra quota issue into a “racial” issue in a report under the heading “Isu kuota bumiputera: Ingatan TPM kepada DAP”.

Mingguan Malaysia (20.5.2001) reported:

“Kajang 19 Mei - Timbalan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi mengingatkan DAP supaya tidak menjadikan kuota pelajar bumiputera ke institusi pengajian tinggi awam (IPTA) sebagai isu perkauman.

“Beliau menegaskan, parti pembangkang itu tidak sewajarnya mengeruhkan lagi keadaan dengan menghasut kaum bukan bumiputra dengan mengeksploitasikan isu kuota bumiputera tersebut.

“’DAP tidak sepatutnya mencari keuntungan politik dengan menimbulkan suasana tidak baik.

“’Mereka tidak wajar menimbulkan rasa iri hati kaum bukan bumiputera terhadap bumiputera,’ kata nya.”

DAP challenges Abdullah to produce proof that the DAP had been “inciting” the non-bumiputeras against the bumiputeras on the quota issue or is arousing  “envy” among non-bumiputeras against bumiputeras.

If he cannot produce any evidence, it is most irresponsible for Abdullah when  holding such a high office to make such serious allegations merely relying on hearsay or rumours.  Is Abdullah prepared to apologise and withdraw his allegations against the DAP if he cannot produce evidence that the DAP was “inciting” the non-bumiputeras against the bumiputeras on the quota issue or arousing the “envy” among non-bumiputeras against bumiputeras?

Reading Abdullah’s comments in the Mingguan Malaysia gives me the feeling that someone is drafting grounds of allegations for use to justify the detention of DAP leaders under the Internal Security Act.

The reason I ticked off the Berita Harian reporter at the Parliament lobby last Thursday when she was unrepentant  in being most provocative in insinuating that I was trying to “create racial tension” when I had never advocated the denial, deprivation or withdrawal of a single university place offered to bumiputra students was because I was aware of a special agenda among certain groups of irresponsible UMNO propagandists who tried to create the impression that the DAP had communalised the university admissions controversy - and may be setting the stage to justify another crackdown against DAP leaders under the infamous Internal Security Act on the ground of creating inter-communal ill-will and hatred.

On Saturday, the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad accused the Chinese press of fanning communal issues which could affect national unity by reporting issues and controversies like the refusal of the University Sains Malaysia to give approval for the USM Chinese Language Society to take part  in the Chinese-language debate with the Nanyang University of Singapore.

At the Cabinet meeting tomorrow, MCA, Gerakan and SUPP Ministers should explain and convince UMNO Ministers that the Chinese press and Chinese community are not being communal when they express their concerns and unhappiness at disrespect or lack of sensitivity for Malaysian Chinese rights and interests which are a legitimate part of Malaysian rights and interests.

This is the crux of my dispute with the Berita Harian/Berita Minggu editor who had claimed in his editorial attack on me that there was nothing wrong in Berita Harian fighting for Malay rights – and I agreed with the caveat that the fight
should not end there but must widen to include the rights of all Malaysians as well.

It would be hypocritical to paint the Chinese press as communal and chauvinist for defending or being sensitive to Malaysian Chinese rights and interests -  while this same trait is regarded as perfectly acceptable and legitimate in the case of  Berita Harian/Berita Minggu vis-a-vis Malay interests and rights.

The real issue is whether apart from defending the rights of their respective communities, the Chinese and Bahasa Malaysia papers also stand up for the larger national interests of all Malaysians regardless of race or religion.

I dare say that if an independent study is commissioned, the Chinese press are probably more Malaysian-minded than Berita Harian/Berita Minggu, for apart from defending the legitimate interests of the Malaysian Chinese, they are more conscientious and diligent in upholding the rights and interests  of all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion.

May be, the Cabinet tomorrow should adopt the decision to commission an independent study as to whether the Chinese press or Berita Harian/Berita Minggu are more Malaysian-minded in their news and editorial contents.

MCA, Gerakan and SUPP Ministers should convince UMNO Ministers not to make unjustified and unfair criticisms because of their lack of understanding of legitimate Malaysian Chinese concerns, or the unprecedented appointment of two Chinese as special aides to the Prime Minister to enable him to get “direct feedback from the community” would be a meaningless exercise.

In my email to the Cabinet Ministers today, I reminded them that they had not honoured their promise to help the SPM and STPM high-scorers to get university places and asked them to re-open and reconsider the issue.

I referred to the statement by the  MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik  after the Cabinet meeting of 9th May 2001  that  the Cabinet was “very, very sympathetic” to high achievers who failed to gain admission to public universities and had directed the Education Ministry to submit a report on how to “accommodate” these students.

Ling said that  “ the Government would do everything possible to look into the plight of these students, including increasing intake or opening new universities”, describing these high-achievers as “very good students”.

However, this Cabinet commitment to help the SPM and STPM top-scorers to admit them into the local public universities communicated to the public by Ling had not been honoured as  the Cabinet at its meeting last week failed to offer a single additional university place to the high SPM and STPM achievers.

In my email to the Cabinet, I asked the Ministers to again review the issue and to adopt a bold and fair four-point universities admission policy  not just for the sake of the students but for the future prosperity of the nation, viz:


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman