Abdullah should give assurance that the Ninth Malaysia Plan consultation will be more meaningful and democratic than past five-year plans, that it will not be a one-way traffic with no attempt to shut off public discussion by arbitrarily classifying issues as “sensitive” such as building new Chinese primary schools to meet increased enrolment needs
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Thursday): After the Cabinet meeting yesterday, the two MCA Ministers present at the meeting, Datuk Dr. Fong Chan Onn and Datuk Dr. Chua Soi Lek said that the issue of building new Chinese primary schools under the Ninth Malaysia Plan will be discussed behind “closed-doors” between the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the MCA President, Datuk Ong Ka Ting when the latter returns from abroad. Abdullah raised the issue in the Cabinet but Ministers were not allowed to discuss it.
Three questions are uppermost in many minds, viz:
Firstly, what is there meaningful to be discussed between the Prime Minister who is UMNO President and Ka Ting on this issue if Abdullah has taken the controversial stand that Chinese primary schools is the cause of racial polarization and that it is not in the interest of national unity and the objective to make national primary schools the first choice of the rakyat to build new Chinese primary schools despite increasing student enrolment?
Is Abdullah prepared to publicly clarify that the Barisan Nasional government has an open mind on the issue of building new Chinese primary schools to meet increasing student enrolment needs under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, and that there is room for a new policy decision to be taken, based on the merits as well as the justice or injustice of the issue?
Secondly, why should the issue of building new Chinese primary schools to meet increasing student enrolment needs be reduced to a “closed-door” discussion between two persons, the Prime Minister and UMNO President and his subordinate, a Cabinet Minister and MCA President? Are Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament and the civil society completely redundant and irrelevant to its decision-making process?
Thirdly, is the consultation process for the formulation of the Ninth Malaysia Plan even more restricted and undemocratic than previous five-year plans?
Exactly five years ago in early 2001, in the run-up to the formulation of the Eighth Malaysia Plan, DAP had called for a new Deal for Mother-Tongue Education to be incorporated into the Eighth Malaysia Plan, including the building of 250 new Chinese primary schools in the five-year period, based on the following grounds:
Abdullah should clarify and assure Malaysians that the Ninth Malaysia Plan consultation will be more meaningful and democratic than past five-year plans and that it will not be a one-way traffic. Malaysians should be at liberty to raise wide-ranging issues in connection with the Ninth Malaysia Plan consultation which should be conducted in a sober, responsible and rational manner without sensationalism, emotionalism, incitement or race-baiting.
Most important of all, there should be no attempt to shut off public discussion on any issue by arbitrarily classifying it as “sensitive” such as the building new Chinese primary schools to meet increased enrolment needs, which will make both the Ninth Malaysia Plan consultation process and Malaysian democracy a mockery.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman