Tuesday): The Prime Minister and UMNO President, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who
is making a one-day visit to Penang today, should put an immediate stop to the
irresponsible campaign by Penang UMNO leaders and Utusan Malaysia in their
petty “tit-for-tat” politicking with Gerakan which undermines the
45th National Day celebrations and 45 years of nation-building by
creating ethnic tensions in the
state and country.
Utusan Malaysia’s front-page report yesterday and today about the Malays in
Penang being ignored and marginalized by the Gerakan state government is clearly
the result of a new strain in relationship between Gerakan and certain factions
in UMNO, but this internal Barisan Nasional feuding can be no excuse for
spoiling the 45th National Day celebrations on Saturday, as it will
be another recent example
of ruling party politicians who are prepared to put narrow personal and
party interests above national interests.
Furthermore, if a Chinese or Tamil newspaper had conducted a very similar campaign with some
political groups in another state claiming that the Chinese or Indian minorities
in the state are being ignored and marginalized by the UMNO state government,
there would be no doubt that fierce warnings and threats of action under the
Sedition Act and even detention-without-trial under the Internal Security Act
would have been issued by the Federal Ministers. Why should there be double standards in more and more areas
of national life in the country after 45 years of nationhood?
The excuses used by certain UMNO
leaders and Utusan Malaysia to mount their “tit-for-tat” campaign against
Gerakan revolve around at least two
issues: firstly, the Gerakan’s belated opposition to the proposal to use English to
teach mathematics and science for national, Chinese and Tamil primary schools
from Std. One next year; and secondly, a Gerakan-sponsored study which concluded
that the Multi-media Super Corridor (MSC) is a failure compared to other similar
initiatives in Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai and that the Multimedia
Development Corporation (MDC) which was established to play the catalytic and
co-ordinator role to develop the MSC, had performed
below expectations, undermining investor confidence
in the MSC.
The Gerakan-sponsored study had very adverse findings on the competencies of
the MDC, whether in terms of
“timely and speedy execution”, the availability and quality of K-workers,
ease of hiring of foreign K-workers, education
and training, to the extent that “MSC run the risk of being marginalized if it
continues with the present way”.
If UMNO leaders and Utusan Malaysia do not agree with the Gerakan’s
position, whether on the proposal to use English to teach mathematics and
science in primary schools from Std. One or the Gerakan-sponsored study about
the dismal performance of the MSC and the MDC, they should be prepared for a
public debate and a battle of ideas – and not to resort to the irresponsible
traditional gambit of mortgaging Malaysia’s future by trying to fan ethnic
feelings and sentiments.
Gerakan President and Minister for Primary Industries, Datuk Dr. Lim Keng
Yaik said yesterday that he was “disappointed with the increasingly less room
for public discussion and debate on issues these days”.
It is an even bigger disappointment to Malaysians that Keng Yaik is not aware all these years of the ever-diminishing space for public debate, dissent and democracy in Malaysia – for which he is one of the authors in having been a senior Cabinet Minister of the Barisan Nasional Government for the past two decades.