March 2001, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad gave an
unprecedented interview to seven Chinese newspapers and declared that the
government has never had any plans to close down Chinese primary schools in the
country, that such fear is unfounded, that
in fact such a move is against the law and that the Chinese community
could take the Government to court for closing down Chinese primary schools.
the same day, the Chinese community and Malaysian nation lost a giant in the
cause for mother-tongue education and human rights, as Lim Fong Seng, former
chairman of the Chinese School Committees of Malaysia (Dong Zong), passed
away the same day.
Lim Fong Seng, who had led the national
movement for the protection and promotion of mother-tongue education spanning
more than two decades from the seventies to nineties, have been assured and
satisfied by Mahathir’s
assurances in his interview with seven Chinese newspapers
that Chinese primary schools and mother-tongue education in the country
are here to stay and that there is no basis for the concern of the Chinese
community about the place and future of Chinese primary schools and
mother-tongue education in the country?
Fong Seng is not with us to give an answer. But we have the spirit of Lim Fong
Seng to tell us that the answer would have been a firm and loud “No” if Lim
Fong Seng is still alive to respond to Mahathir’s interview with the seven
was Lim Fong Seng who spearheaded the campaign from the seventies to defend the
existence of Chinese primary schools and preserve its character from Section
21(2) of the 1961 Education Act which, until
the 1996 Education Act, was a Sword of Damocles hanging over all Chinese primary
schools waiting only for the time to close and convert them into national
although the Sword of Damocles of Section 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act
vesting the Education Minister the full discretionary power to convert Chinese
primary schools into national primary schools had been removed, it had been
replaced by another Sword of
Damocles in the form of the ultimate objective of the government for a single
stream education system.
precisely because of the refusal to repeal this “ultimate objective” and the
new Sword of Damocles that
the concept of the Vision Schools is regarded as suspect, as to whether it is in
fact an instrument to bring about the eventual realisation of the
ultimate objective of the national education system of having a single stream of
education system - although no one objects to the mixing and interaction of
Malaysian students of different races and religions.
argument that the Chinese community could take the Government to court for
closing down Chinese primary schools is no assurance at all, after the failure
of the Merdeka University legal suit all the way to the
Federal Court in July 1982 despite such high hopes of the Chinese
reference during the interview to
the “Social Contract” reached by
the three communities during Merdeka is not calculated to inspire
confidence, when on September 29, 2001 at the Gerakan national conference,
he could unilaterally abrogate one of the most fundamental
principles of the 44-year “Social
Contract” and 1957 Merdeka Constitution of Malaysia, which was reaffirmed by
the peoples of Sarawak and Sabah in 1963, of Malaysia
as a democratic, secular, multi-religious and progressive nation
with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic state by declaring
that Malaysia is an Islamic state!
Mahathir’s unprecedented interview to the
seven Chinese newspapers last week was clearly designed to influence the
voters in the Ketari by-election, the question is how much credibility it
deserves to be given.
can still remember that before the 1999 general elections, the Cabinet expressed
support for the Suqiu general election appeals but which were denounced by
Mahathir inside and outside
Parliament in the following year as extremist, chauvinist, communist and even
fanatical like Al-Maunah.
asked in Parliament for the inconsistency, Mahathir told Parliament in December
"We were threatened then
as elections were just round the corner. That’s why they came up
with the memorandum as a threat to the Barisan Nasional, and that if we
didn’t entertain their request they would tell the Chinese not to support us.
This was deliberate and the timing was well-planned. What could we do
people of Malaysia, and in particular the voters of Ketari, should not easily
forget the lesson of Suqiu, as the Barisan Nasional has established that it is
capable of giving all sorts of assurances just for the sake of votes during
elections but which they have no intention whatsoever of honouring.
people of Ketari has a historic opportunity during the by-election to manifest
the spirit of Lim Fong Seng to spearhead a national movement for 21st Century Charter for comprehensive system of
mother-tongue education from
primary to tertiary level in Malaysia, which for Chinese education in Malaysia,
should include the following important elements:
50 new Chinese primary schools a
the original Damansara Chinese
primary school in Petaling Jaya as a “community school” for the pupils in
the immediate locality.
all Vision School projects until the repeal of the “ultimate
objective” preamble in the 1996 Education Act.
billion special allocation for the 60 Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and
the 1,200 Chinese primary schools
to be paid out in the next five years in recognition of their contribution to
building of new or re-establishment of previous
Chinese Independent Secondary Schools.
recognition of Unified Examinations Certificate (UEC) of Chinese Independent
Pupil’s Own Language (POL) a
compulsory subject for all pupils in national primary and secondary schools.
of a university
using Chinese as a medium of instruction as the goverment has asked the
Japanese government to set up an university in Malaysia
with Japanese as medium of instruction.