I read with great enthusiasm all the new year wishes in the blogosphere. Some were funny, some were passionate and full of hope, some were even foreboding and apprehensive.
However, Lim Kit Siang’s new year’s message was somewhat misleading and full of rhetorics. Now who am I to criticise Lim Kit Siang? He is after all, the grand old man of the opposition since the 1960′s. The rock n’ rolling 60′s.
Nevertheless, I hope the incomparable Lim Kit Siang will take stock of the situation he is in now after March 2008.
In his message, he urged Malaysians to stand united against the global economic depression in 2009. A fine gesture indeed.
But then he launched himself into an outburst of self delusions by saying:
Malaysia is at a new crossroads. We have lost our way after half-a-century of nationhood as illustrated by the tragic fact that the objective of a Bangsa Malaysia as proclaimed in Vision 2020 has become a subject of discord rather than concord among Malaysians and our continued slippage in international competitiveness whether in terms of university rankings, corruption perception indices, human rights or good governance ratings.
Firstly, I would like to point out that the seeds of discord were sown by the people that opted themselves to be continually be segregated from the majority. The concept Bangsa Malaysia which was mooted as a 30 year plan to unite Malaysians under the Vision 2020, was time and time again been ridiculed by the people that had diminished this noble idea of a dignified and united people into a much tainted concept.
Often times, ideas of integration were abruptly turned down by those who think themselves as culturally superior than the rest of the people.
And to say that Malaysia lost its way for the past half century is quite ironic here. If we were to believe that is true, then the most probable cause for it is due to the opposition’s lack of maturity to work together with the government. That would probably be the main cause for the nation’s glitches and stuttering performance. The opposition’s methods of opposing everything just for the sake of opposing have become a crying shame in the overall parliamentary mechanism.
If the government had submitted themselves to the whims and demands of the opposition, we may not even have the Penang Bridge, PLUS Highways and other initiatives made by the government since 1957. In fact, the opposition has the honour to be the main driver of the nation’s lack of patriotism. To digress a bit, back in 1998, PAS promised to auction off Putrajaya and KLCC if they gain power in the general elections of 1999. That was one of their ideas to overcome the currency crisis.
Therefore, it was indeed a miracle that Malaysia, although being riled and bogged down by the incessant grumbling of the opposition, did progress in achieving great feats and became highly respected in the international community. In the words of a renown statesman – ‘Not bad for a country that was considered a primary candidate for the dustbin of history’.
Thus, the current slippage of the country’s standing in the indices mentioned by Lim Kit Siang above are actually the manifestation of a bad leadership of the country. A weak leadership. If the leadership is good and the country is prosperous with low inflation and low cost of living, then even the opposition have no cause to grumble. Their potshots at the government will mostly be unheeded by the happy majority. This is in cognisant with their past inability to gain more seats in the parliament. It is indeed about the economy and the leadership.
And as always, the opposition will always be long on rhetorics and short on substance. Like how they overpromised in their March 2008 election manifesto and under-delivered in the aftermath.
The great challenge facing Malaysia in the coming year is whether Malaysians can unite as one Malaysian people to withstand the worst effects of the global economic tsunami in the coming year and regain our lost ground in the international competitiveness stakes to forge a united, just, progressive, caring and meritocratic nation.
Like many instances in my past articles, what are the steps needed to be done to achieve that? How can he work together with the many opposing ideologies in his coalition?
By just providing the aim is never enough without providing the strategies. Just like a medicine peddlar in Puduraya, people will flock around him to hear what he promised Malaysia would be in his grand scheme of things. But how to achieve that had never been discussed seriously by anyone in his team.
Hence, that is why the idea of a streamlined education system as suggested by Datuk Mukhriz is very much one of the many viable ideas to unite the people further.
After the Wawasan school concept was rejected by the staunch defenders of the vernacular schools, the new government under the Prime Minister-elect Datuk Najib must make a stand to bring forward this idea further. A study is needed to unify the children under one education system. I do not think he should be concerned with what a few clustered people would think. After all, a good (not a weak and corrupt one) government often make unpopular decisions for the benefit of the nation.
After all, in Article 152 of the Constitution, in which the existence of vernacular schools rely heavily upon had stated;
1. The national language shall be the Malay language and shall be in such script as Parliament may by law provide: Provided that-
- (a) no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (otherwise than for official purposes), or from teaching or learning, any other language; and
- (b) nothing in this Clause shall prejudice the right of the Federal Government or of any State Government to preserve and sustain the use and study of the language of any other community in the Federation.
6. In this Article, “official purpose” means any purpose of the Government, whether Federal or State, and includes any purpose of a public authority.
It clearly says there that you are free to learn and teach other languages. But it specifically did not say you have the freedom to learn History or Geography or Mathematics or Science in your mother tongue.
Again let me stress here, you have the right to learn and teach your mother tongue. Full stop. The Constitution did not say you have the right to LEARN any other subjects in your mothertongue.
And the term “official purposes” clearly clarifies the situation further. It means, whatever the Government thinks is ’official’, and especially if it deemed to be in the domain of public (read: majority) authority.
Thus, does the majority think the existence of vernacular schools, where the learning of most subjects are carried out not in the national language, are in line with the Constitution? Does the government feel that the vernacular schools fall under what we call as an ‘official’ education system? How can we have 3 education systems, with three separate languages as the medium of learning within one country?
It does not make sense!
The government must act on what it feels will be good for the social harmony and unity of the nation. Unpopular decisions must be made in order to have a progressive and unified citizenry.
Other communities and their languages are protected in the Constitution.
That is why, Datuk Mukhriz’s suggestion which include the compulsory teaching of other languages in the national schools is laudable enough and importantly, in line with Article 152 of the Constitution. He had said:
“I also said that languages like Mandarin and Tamil should be made compulsory in national schools for those who consider it their mother tongue, and optional for those who don’t.”
Now, with the aim of national unity among all races and the closer integration between our diverse cultural background, the plans in strengthening and improving the national schools must be considered as one of the highest priority of the incoming Prime Minister. As a former education minister himself, he must put a stop in all these grumbling by a few clustered people and some potshots from the opposition
The Constitition, being the supreme law in the land (by virtue of Article 4) can empower the government to rethink and restrategise our education system. Even to amend the Education Act 1996.
And to think Lim Kit Siang could threaten people with Sedition Act for calling the abolishment of vernacular schools! Clearly what he said was only to gain political mileage.
Since he and the rest of the Pakatan Rakyat leaders promised to uphold the Constitution, I do hope, as a new year resolution, he would actually mean it.
At the same time, the government must ensure that the national school system is improved to the same standard it has back in the olden days where students were thought driven, and not so much being exam-centric.
The Prime Minister must be strong enough to tell the people within the education system machinery that national schools must be made attractive to EVERYONE and to act on it as well. There should be certain KPIs be set on the Education Ministry in order to harness and monitor the sort of result and performance we dearly need.
For instance, after the announcement of Penyata Razak II 2009 [just to be slightly presumptuous here], where steps in making the national schools more attractive and above all, making them the best education system in the country are implemented, a checklist will be issued out to all parents in ensuing whether the Education Ministry are really serious in implementing those set standards and initiatives. And after two or three years (to coincide right before the next general election), the parents can see whether the Prime Minister and the Education Minister have delivered what they had promised; – a better education system vis-a-vis a greater national unity.
Hopefully, this will see the creation of Bangsa Malaysia by the year 2020 onwards.
There is no use of seeing students getting 18As in their SPM examinations but failed to integrate and social well with the rest of the people after leaving school.
Also, further rhetorics from Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang and their pack of clustered people will lose its significance. Even currently, after riding much of the popularity attained from the last general election, people are starting to see that, in its aftermath, they are nothing more than empty vessels shooting from the hip most of the time.
Footnote: The Education Act 1996 clearly stated in its mission policy:
“AND WHEREAS the above policy is to be executed through a national system of education which provides for the national language to be the main medium of instruction, a National Curriculum and common examinations; the education provided being varied and comprehensive in scope and which will satisfy the needs of the nation as well as promote national unity through cultural, social, economic and political development in accordance with the principles of Rukunegara“
And the first aspiration in Rukunegara is ‘mencapai perpaduan yang lebih erat di kalangan seluruh masyarakatnya’ .
That is why I see no logic in the Education policy of Malaysia. At one hand, it desire Malaysia to have unity among the races but on the other hand, it tries to defeat the Constitution and Rukunegara by allowing (not yet mandatory) vernacular school systems. To this end, I urge the Government to relook into the Education law as it does not conform to the spirit of the Constitution. Thank you.