Media treatment of Dong Jiao Zong’s policy statement on “2:4:3 formula” to use English to teach mathematics and science from Std. One the most powerful evidence of the insidious erosion of the fundamental liberties of free speech, expression, information and the press in the 45-year history of the nation
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Tuesday): The mass media treatment of Dong Jiao Zong’s policy statement yesterday on the “2:4:3 formula” to use English to teach mathematics and science from Std. One is the most powerful evidence of the insidious erosion of the fundamental liberties of free speech, expression, information and the press in the 45-year history of the nation and is bad news for democracy, human rights and the freedom of the press in Malaysia, even after a change-over of the Prime Minister next October.
At any other time in the nation’s history, the policy statement of such established, representative and authoritative organizations as Dong Jiao Zong on such an important issue affecting Chinese primary schools would have been given front-page treatment in all the Chinese newspapers, as whether one agrees or disagrees with its contents, it would undoubtedly be the most important news item of the day.
Today, without exception, readers have to search the Chinese newspapers for the Dong Jiao Zong policy statement, which is invariably hidden away in some obscure section or corner, relegated to a position even more inconsequential to the daily and petty fare of criminal and social news.
There can only be one answer to such a sorry state of affairs, that powerful undemocratic forces had been at work to muzzle the Chinese media from fair, responsible and independent reporting of the controversy over the issue of the “2:4:3” formula of the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council on the use of English to teach mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools from Std. One next year.
Of late, such dark, powerful and undemocratic forces had been more and more evident in muzzling the press, in particular the Chinese media, to ensure that Barisan Nasional MCA Ministers are not put in an invidious position or bad light – and the virtual press black-out of the Puchong Incinerator controversy despite the protest of some one million people in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor affected by the project is one good example.
Strangely enough, it is the Bahasa Malaysia newspapers, the Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian, and one English newspapers, the New Straits Times, which carried the Dong Jiao Zong policy statement as front-page headline news.
But this is not because these newspapers recognized the news value of the Dong Jiao Zong policy statement, but for the political agenda to set up the stage for a ferocious assault on Dong Jiao Zong in the next few days or weeks as evident from the biased and tendentious front-page headline in Berita Harian: “Cauvinis pendidikan Cina tolak formula baru”.
The Dong Jiao Zong policy statement should be the basis for a nation-wide debate on the educational merits or demerits of the “2:4:3 formula”, but not for a repeat of the deplorable communal power play as happened two years ago in the UMNO and UMNO Youth attack on Suqiu over the 1999 general election appeal of NGOs and Chinese guilds and associations.
The Star coverage of the Dong Jiao Zong policy statement, dismissing it in two paragraphs, is probably meant to evoke the reaction that one should be thankful for “little mercies”!
Parliament should take note of the insidious press censorship which has been imposed on the mass media to prevent a free, responsible and independent reportage of important national issues and call on the Cabinet and the Home Ministry to end all such undemocratic pressures inimical to free, independent and responsible press.
It is most regrettable that Parliament had failed to address Malaysia’s atrocious ranking in Reporters Without Borders’ recent first worldwide press freedom index, which placed the country 110th out of 139 countries or among some 20 per cent of the nations in the world with the worst press freedom record.
Suhakam, which had been specifically established by statute to protect and promote human rights, cannot continue its present policy of hiding its head under the sand with regard to the worsening press freedom in the country and should hold a wide-ranging public inquiry to check, arrest and reverse the undemocratic process of ever-increasing though subtle pressure to muzzle the mass media.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman