The new high-powered education review committee headed by the Prime Minister to review the entire national education system should suspend its function until it has been approved and properly constituted by the Cabinet as it is otherwise an illegal and illegitimate body and should not spend a single sen of public funds
- Penang DAP Political Dialogue
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Friday): Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi confirmed the New Straits Times report that “the Government’s recently-established committee” headed by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to review the entire national education system to improve the quality of education and ensure that national schools are the popular choice of all Malaysians to foster national unity held its first meeting in Putrajaya on Wednesday. Among those who attended the inaugural meeting chaired by Mahathir were Abdullah, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin and Johore Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman.
The pertinent question that must be asked is whether the government had officially decided, and when, to establish such a high-powered education review committee, as the proposal had never been brought to the Cabinet, which could not therefore have decided on its formation.
The decision by the UMNO Supreme Council on November 29 to establish a high-powered committee headed by the Prime Minister to review the entire national education system is only an UMNO decision which cannot bind the government and any such committee cannot be a government committee and cannot operate from the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya unless there is a Cabinet decision on the matter.
For these reasons, the new high-powered committee headed by the Prime Minister to review the entire national education system should suspend its function until it has been approved and properly constituted by the Cabinet as it is otherwise an illegal and illegitimate body and should not spend a single sen of public funds
It is a great political scandal that in the past fortnight, no MCA, Gerakan, MIC or SUPP Minister dared say a word about the impropriety and illegality of having such a high-powered government education review committee before the Cabinet had made a decision on its establishment, objectives, composition and terms of reference.
The question of the establishment of a high-powered committee headed by the Prime Minister to review the entire national education system should be examined in depth and decided by the Cabinet at its meeting next Wednesday, and in its deliberations, the Cabinet should consider and explain to Malaysians on the need for such an education review committee when only last year, the 10-Year Education Development Blueprint 2001-2010 was made public after its completion by a committee headed by the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad.
When properly and legitimately formed, this committee to review the entire national education system will be the second Mahathir education review committee as Mahathir had previously been appointed to chair a Cabinet education review committee when he was Education Minister 28 years ago in September 1974, which took more than five years to come up with its report.
The second Mahathir education review committee is the most high-powered education committee in Malaysian history, as no Prime Minister had previously ever chaired an education committee, and is therefore likely to produce the country’s most important education report in the past half a century with far-reaching consequences for future generations.
It is of vital importance, therefore, that at the Cabinet meeting, MCA, Gerakan, MIC and SUPP Ministers should make clear beyond a shadow of doubt as to whether and how the position, development and future of Chinese and Tamil primary schools would be affected and to issue a public statement to explain the matter after the Cabinet meeting.
I have seen a news report about the objectives of the second Mahathir education review committee, which is to get the student population in the national schools to reflect the “racial demographics” in Malaysia.
Before its meeting on November 29 which decided to establish the most high-powered education review committee to ensure that the national schools are attended by all Malaysian students regardless of race, the UMNO Supreme Council received a report which had been commissioned by the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) in May this year making recommendations on a single-stream education system in Malaysia.
The NEAC-commissioned report was put together by a group described as “the country’s leading academics, professionals, senior civil servants, corporate captains and teachers”.
It is most improper and a gross abuse of public funds for the NEAC to commission reports for the UMNO Supreme Council, as the NEAC should be advising the government and Cabinet and not any political party. This NEAC report should not only be made available to all Cabinet Ministers but should be made public for study, consideration and debate by the Malaysian public.
If the objective of a single-stream education system is to ensure that the student population in national schools reflect the racial demographics in Malaysia, i.e. 55 per cent Malay, 30 per cent Chinese and about 10 per cent Indian, it is bound to have a far-reaching impact on the position, development and future of Chinese and Tamil primary schools. This is why Malaysians are entitled to answers to the many teeming questions about the second Mahathir education review committee.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman