MCA and Gerakan leaders should reduce their power politicking and start focusing on the most serious political development of the year – the UMNO Supreme Council decision to establish the most high-powered committee in the nation’s history to review the entire national education system
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Wednesday): The MCA-Gerakan power tussle over the two Penang MCA State Assembly members Tan Cheng Liang (Jawi) and Lim Boo Chang (Datuk Keramat) for abstaining in the motion by the DAP Assemblyman for Batu Lanchang, Law Heng Kiang in the recent Penang State Assembly to defer the RM1.02 billion Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) project has moved another notch upwards.
Yesterday, the MCA disciplinary committee demanded clarification from the Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, as to whether the whip was applied in the voting for the DAP motion and the unaccounted eight Barisan Nasional votes, resulting in less than two-thirds of the Barisan Nasional Assembly members opposing the DAP motion.
In quick response, Koh alleged the MCA of “kicking the ball” to him and putting him on trial.
For the past three weeks, since the statement by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on November 22 that the Penang MCA duo may face possible expulsion from the Barisan Nasional for refusing to vote against the DAP’s PORR motion, MCA and Gerakan had let the people of Penang down as both were so engrossed in their power tussle that they completely ignored the real issue at stake – the unpopularity of PORR project and the failure and inability of both the Federal and State Government to convince the people of Penang, including Barisan Nasional state assembly members, of the suitability and legitimacy of the project and to ask for its full review.
Now, MCA and Gerakan leaders are letting the people of Malaysia down as they are so pre-occupied with their power tussle over the Penang MCA duo that both had completely neglected and abdicated from their national political responsibilities – in particular far-reaching national economic and education policies and developments.
MCA and Gerakan leaders should reduce their power politicking and start focusing on the most serious political development of the year – the UMNO Supreme Council decision to establish the most high-powered committee in the nation’s history to review the entire national education system.
For the past 12 days, MCA and Gerakan Ministers and leaders have maintained a total and shocking silence on what is probably the most important review of the national education system in the 45-year history of Malaysia, headed for the first time by the Prime Minister himself.
MCA and Gerakan Ministers and leaders not only had no input whatsoever before the important policy decision was taken by the UMNO Supreme Council to establish the most high-powered education review committee into the entire national education system, they seem totally in the dark about the decision as it was never brought before the Cabinet for discussion let alone approval and they are completely at a loss as how to react and comment on the issue.
In the past fortnight, not only all the important UMNO Ministers and leaders had spoken about the Mahathir education review committee, establishment educationists including former top Education Ministry officials had also waded in with their views about the ills of the national education system which should be addressed to bring about a single stream school system for all students in Malaysia.
Tan Sri Murad Mohamad Noor, who was Education Director-General 1976-1985, represented most of these views when he said in a weekend interview that the problem of racial polarization cannot be resolved so long as Chinese and Tamil primary schools are allowed to exist together with national primary schools.
It is one of the biggest fallacies in Malaysian nation-building that communalism and national disunity are caused by the existence of the multi-stream primary education system.
It assumes that primary education is the end of one’s education and socialisation process before one becomes an adult - ignoring the secondary and tertiary levels of education.
Although over 90 per cent of the Chinese and Indian students enrol in the respective Chinese and Tamil primary schools, the overwhelming majority of them proceed to national secondary schools.
The more pertinent question is why the ten to eleven years of secondary, post-secondary and tertiary education where the different races come under one common roof could not engender greater Malaysian oneness transcending ethnic differences among the new generation of Malaysians!
Racial polarisation in the public universities is even more serious in the previous decades - and this cannot be blamed on the multi-stream education system at the primary school level.
In the final analysis, the real causes of communalism, polarization and national disunity are unfair and unjust nation-building policies in all fields of national life which give a premium to ethnic divisions rather than to common Malaysian nationality, such as the continued division of Malaysians into bumiputras and non-bumiputras.
In any event, the Mahathir education review committee should be focussing more attention on racial polarization in the secondary, post-secondary and tertiary levels than on the existence of the multi-stream primary education system.
There should in fact be a national debate as to what should be the priority areas of the Mahathir education review committee which is sadly absent today.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman