Eight Malaysia Plan Mid-Term Review should incorporate the national targets to appoint an Orang Asli to head the Department of Orang Asli Affairs and at least one woman and one non-Malay as Vice Chancellors for the public universities by the end of the Eighth Malaysia Plan in 2005
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The New Straits Times today front-paged the news of the appointment of the first Orang Asli magistrate in the country, Lisah Che Mat, 33, in the Tampin/Gemas magistrate’s court last month. A mother of two and law graduate from Universiti of Malaya in 1994, Lisah was senior assistant registrar in the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
Lisah’s appointment should be a source of encouragement to Orang Asli in their socio-economic and educational upliftment and mobility, although it should be legitimately asked as to why 46 years after Merdeka, the highest post for an Orang Asli in the legal and judicial service is only a magistrate, and not higher, such as a High Court judge.
The long parliamentary debate on the 2004 Budget beginning on Monday should be used as an occasion for a government report and wide-ranging post-mortem on the progress made to fully integrate Orang Asli into the mainstream of national life and development and the achievements by Orang Asli in the various professional fields and walks of life.
The many long-standing injustices in the country, particularly pertaining to Orang Asli, should be rectified. For instance, it is outrageous that after nearly five decades of nationhood, no Orang Asli had been appointed as Director-General of the Department for Orang Asli Affairs. Such a historic wrong to the Orang Asli community should be urgently redressed by appointing an Orang Asli to head the Department in the quickest way possible.
Yesterday, Utusan Malaysia reported the country’s first woman to fly a Boeing 737-300 as a commercial pilot, Kota Kinabalu’s Janet Chan, 45, on her appointment as First Officer with AsiaAir.
This is a personal credit to Janet in breaking another glass-ceiling and man-made limitation for her gender.
The time has come for the redressal of the many unfair and unjust glass ceilings and restrictions imposed whether on gender, communities or groups which are at odds with the principles of equality and meritocracy.
On Sunday, New Sunday Times pointed out that 54 years after the inception of Malaysia’s first university, a woman has yet to be appointed Vice-Chancellor of a public institution. The closest that female scholars have got to the pinnacle of academia is the post of Deputy Vice-Chancellor on two occasions.
Another glaring injustice is the absence of a single non-Malay Vice Chancellors in the 17 public universities in the country.
In the 2004 Budget debate, Members of Parliament regardless of whether Barisan Nasional, Barisan Alternative or DAP should reach a consensus and resolve that the Eight Malaysia Plan Mid-Term Review at the end of the year should incorporate the national targets to appoint an Orang Asli to head the Department of Orang Asli Affairs and at least one woman and one non-Malay as Vice Chancellors for the public universities by the end of the Eighth Malaysia Plan in 2005.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman