The 45th National Day ten days away  will be historic and unprecedented if an all-party roundtable conference could be held before it to announce a  national consensus on raising  proficiency of English, mathematics and science in primary and secondary schools as well as the universities

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Wednesday): The country has been plunged into confusion on the government’s proposal on the use of English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools from next year following the meeting of all the 15 Barisan Nasional component parties yesterday on the summons of the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, as illustrated by the conflicting headlines and news reports in the mass  media. 

Utusan Malaysia today carried the front-page headline “Liong Sik diarah main peranan – Isu BI:  Mesyuarat Khas BN mahu komuniti Cina diberi penjelasan” reporting that Abdullah had directed the  MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik to play a “more serious role” in explaining the issue of the implementation of English in mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools to the Chinese community, including Dong Jiao Zong.  It said Abdullah wanted Liong Sik to “immediately meet” Chinese organizations “which are obstacles to government efforts to implement the new government policy”. 

Berita Harian ran the headline: “Elak percanggahan – Nasihat Pak Lah tangani isu bahasa Inggeris” reporting that Abdullah reminded Barisan Nasional leaders not to make conflicting statements on the issue of the use of English to teach mathematics and science, which would only cause confusion, and that any solution must be sought inside the Barisan Nasional and not through the mass media. 

Both the New Straits Times and The Star carried surprisingly similar front-page headlines on the BN having reached a consensus, except that the former, if true,  carried a scoop  that the consensus was that mathematics and science would  only be taught in English at secondary schools. 

Thus the front-page headline of The Star is “PARTIES AGREE – BN leaders reach consensus on improving English” but no mention of the nature of the consensus, while The New Straits Times was more specific with its headline: “BN reaches consensus – Maths, Science in English: It’s for secondary schools only, say sources”. 

The question is whether the 15 Barisan Nasional parties have reached the consensus to revoke the Cabinet decision of July 19, deciding that English should not be used to teach  mathematics and science in primary schools, whether national, Chinese or Tamil, but only for secondary schools, or whether the consensus reached by the 15 Barisan Nasional parties yesterday was that no consensus has yet been achieved? 

Malaysiakini yesterday came out with a completely different version when it reported that Abdullah  had asked the leaders of the Barisan Nasional’s Chinese-based parties to reach a consensus on the English language issue before reverting to the government with their proposal. 

Be that as it may, two things are clear: 

As a result, the whole meaning and purpose of the 45th National Day to be an occasion for all Malaysians, regardless of political affiliation, race, language, religion and culture to reaffirm their unity and one-ness as Malaysian citizens have been seriously jeopardized.

There is still time, however,  to turn the situation around and even to transform the “crisis” over the English language issue into an “opportunity” for Malaysian nation-building and national unity.

The 45th National Day ten days away  will be historic and unprecedented if an all-party roundtable conference could be held before it to announce a  national consensus on raising  proficiency of English, mathematics and science in primary and secondary schools as well as the universities. 

DAP reiterates its call to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to  convene  a roundtable conference of all political parties before National Day on August 31  to achieve a national consensus on the best and least divisive way to raise the standards of English, mathematics and science in schools  and universities based on the common agreement among the full cross-section of the Malaysian society  on the  need for greater proficiency in these subjects. 

Let the 45th National Day mark a new beginning for nation-building in Malaysia, where there is a rediscovered ability on the part of Malaysian leaders, regardless of party affiliation, race, religion, language or culture, to build on the common agreements already existing  among Malaysians  to reach a new and greater national consensus, instead of creating greater discord by disregarding such  areas of common agreement among Malaysians. 


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman