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What is so secretive about the Murad Education Report that two years after its completion, it is not only kept away from MPs and the Malaysian public, but also from Cabinet Ministers who are not from UMNO?
Media Conference Statement (2)
-at Parliament (Committee Room One)by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Thursday): The parliamentary written answer to me by the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein refusing to make public the report of the special task force headed by former Education Director-General Tan Sri Murad Mohd Nor is the worst reply ever given by an Education Minister in Parliament in the 48-year history of the nation.
It violates the commitment of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to head an open, accountable and transparent government, which respects the right to information of Malaysian MPs and the civil society to government-commissioned reports and studies so that there could be a meaningful and informed public discussion, participation and consultation in the decision-making process in every aspect of national life. It also runs counter to the pledge made by every Education Minister in the past to fully involve the citizenry in the national endeavour to create a world-class quality education system.
Hishammuddin’s claim that there is no need to make public the Murad report as “it contains recommendations and proposals to strengthen national schools and the administration of the Sekolah Agama Rakyat (SAR) which still needed to be studied in detail as they involve legal and financial implications” is just no explanation at all!
Although Hishammuddin confirmed that the Murad task force had handed over its report to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Education Minister had not told the whole truth, as the Murad Report had been completed and first handed over to the fourth Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in mid-2003 who assigned Abdullah, then Deputy Prime Minister, to deal with the Murad Report.
Hishammuddin should explain what is so secretive about the Murad Education Report that two years after its completion, it is not only kept away from MPs and the Malaysian public, but also from Cabinet Ministers who are not from UMNO – as Cabinet Ministers from MCA, Gerakan, MIC, SUPP and other Barisan Nasional component parties do not have any clue as to the Murad Report and its recommendations! This clearly violates the principle of collective Ministerial responsibility.
The Murad Report to revamp national schools is one of the most conspicuous unfinished business of Dr. Mahathir during his premiership, as Murad was commissioned by Dr. Mahathir in December 2002 to head a group to propose far-reaching educational reforms to redress what he had vividly described at the time as the “double hijacking” of the national school system from its original objective of catering to all races in Malaysia – sabotage of the Pupil’s Own Language (POL) programme and the attempt to turn the national schools into Islamic rather than Malaysian schools.
The Murad task force took about six months to complete its report and recommendations on the restructuring of the national school system, and Murad was quoted in the media in August 2003 as stating that the report had been presented to Dr. Mahathir, with another media report stating that Abdullah as Deputy Prime Minister was assigned to deal with the Murad Report.
Murad had said in August 2003 that the education system would undergo significant changes “with far reaching effects” under the recommendations made in the Murad Report.
For the past two years, the Murad Report to revamp and strengthen national schools to make them the first choice of parents had been kept a closely-guarded secret, when it should be the subject of an extensive public debate involving parents, teachers and the civil society in a meaningful consultation process on the best ways to reform the national school system to provide quality education for primary, secondary, tertiary, mother-tongue and ICT education.
It is time to end the secrecy of the two-year-old Murad Report to revamp and strengthen national schools, and the Murad Education Report should be tabled in Parliament before the end of the current meeting for parliamentary attention and public discussion.
I call on the Prime Minister to nip in the bud any attempt to foster a cult and culture of government secrecy under his administration to revert to bad governance, such as continuing to keep Parliament and the civil society in the dark about the contents of the two-year-old Murad Education Report.