I am always prepared anytime to meet with Keng Yaik and Liong Sik, or with Mahathir, Hadi, Azizah,  Samy Vellu, Leo Moggie, Joseph Pairin for discussions  to try to  reach consensus on critical national issues

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Wednesday): Gerakan President and Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik proposed at the Manjong Lim Clan Association 10th Anniversary dinner at Ayer Tawar that the “three Lims”, MCA President Datuk Dr. Ling Liong Sik, Keng Yaik and myself should meet for an “amicable” discussion to reach a consensus to help resolve the many problems faced by  the Chinese community. (Kwong Wah Yit Poh)

I am always prepared anytime to meet with Keng Yaik and Liong Sik, or with Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, Datin Seri Dr. Wan  Azizah Wan Ismail,  Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, Datuk Leo Moggie, Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan  for discussions   to reach consensus on critical  national issues. 

What made Keng Yaik come up with the proposal of the “three Lims” meeting, which is not a novel idea, is probably the current controversy over the government decision to use English to teach mathematics and science for all schools, including Chinese primary schools. 

I will like to find out from Keng Yaik and Liong Sik why MCA and Gerakan Ministers in Cabinet had not been the  “first to know, first to be conscious” but were “last to know, last to be unconscious” and even “unknowing and unconscious” about the implications of the proposal to switch the medium of instruction from Mandarin to English for mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools, and had not taken a clear stand right from the beginning that the use of English to teach mathematics and science should not apply to Chinese primary schools without fulfillment of two prerequisites: 

The comments by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Penang on Monday on the issue is most disturbing, as it was a clear indication that MCA, Gerakan and SUPP Ministers had gone along with the proposal when it  was first mooted some three months ago but had wanted time to deal with its “political fall-outs”, resulting in the  decision of the Special Cabinet meeting on July 19 to introduce the  use of English to teach mathematics and science in Standard One, Form One and Lower Six in all national schools next year, but deferring its application to  the Chinese and Tamil primary schools until a political decision is taken by the Barisan Nasional parties.  

Abdullah had said that MCA and Gerakan had asked for more time “to gauge the Chinese community’s thoughts and attitudes” on the teaching of mathematics and science in English in Chinese primary schools. 

He hoped that the Chinese community can truly understand the government’s position, saying that teaching mathematics and science in English in Chinese primary schools will not alter the characteristics of vernacular schools. 

Urging MCA and Gerakan to explain to Chinese primary school authorities the need to implement the policy, Abdullah said the English language had been recognized as important in science and technology as well as in the information communications technology. (The Star 30.7.02) 

It is a serious dereliction of duty on the part of MCA, Gerakan and SUPP Ministers that in the nearly three months since the proposal for a switch of medium of instruction for mathematics and science was first broached in early May, they failed to convey to the UMNO leadership at  the first available opportunity that while efforts to raise the standard of English proficiency in Chinese primary schools will get full support from the Chinese community, the proposal to switch the medium of instruction for the two subjects may not be appropriate or desirable  because of completely different circumstances prevailing in Chinese primary schools as compared to national primary schools. 

MCA Vice President and Housing and Local Government Minister, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, told Sin Chew Jit Poh today that the three Chinese-based political parties in the Barisan Nasional, the MCA, Gerakan and SUPP,  had reached a preliminary decision that Chinese primary schools would not be using English to teach Mathematics and Science, but teaching and learning of English in the these schools should be enhanced. 

He  said the three parties were of the opinion that English for Mathematics and Science should be taught from Secondary school onward. The three parties agreed that wishes of parents should be respected – that Mandarin  should continue be used in the teaching of Mathematics and Science in Chinese primary schools.

Why must it take the three parties some three months before reaching a “preliminary decision” that English should not be used to teach mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools, when MCA, Gerakan and SUPP Ministers should have  conveyed  such views right from the start in early May  when the proposal was first mooted? 

This dereliction of duty of the MCA, Gerakan and SUPP Ministers to communicate to UMNO Ministers their reservations as well as those of the Chinese community on the use of English to teach mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools, giving the distinct impression of their agreement to the proposal,  has now spawned serious political problems – like Abdullah’s assumption shared by other UMNO leaders  that MCA, Gerakan and SUPP Ministers had agreed that the proposal is good but “politically” difficult because of  unco-operative,  “recalcitrant”,  or even “extremist” elements in the Chinese community. 

This has also led to “extremist” reactions from some “hotheads” in UMNO Youth and some Malay youth organisations, as reflected in today’s  Utusan Malaysia front-page report and headline:  “Jangan kecualikan SJKC – Bertegas laksanakan Sains, Matematik dalam bahasa Inggeris – Pemuda UMNO”. 

UMNO Youth Information chief, Azimi Daim, has demanded that the new policy to use English to teach mathematics and science should be implemented comprehensively to “ensure that the interests of the young generation and the nation for the future are not jeopardized”. Another UMNO Youth leader, Mohamad Norza Zakaria, said that any exemption for certain groups in society would only undermine the implementation of the national education policy and render it meaningless. 

The President of Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semanjung (GPMS) Datuk Suhaimi Ibrahim was even more extremist,  calling for the barring of Chinese primary school pupils from Mara Science Junior College (MRSM) and the termination of all government financial support for Chinese primary schools if the use of English to teach mathematics and science is rejected by Chinese primary schools. 

Suhaimi’s uncalled-for remarks and allegations, which are very serious and highly detrimental to inter-racial goodwill and harmony and the promotion of national unity, are highly regrettable and deplorable. 

Why should the question as to whether English should be used to teach mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools be turned into a “test of strength” and showdown between the Chinese and Malays, as some UMNO Youth leaders and Suhaimi want to do? 

Are UMNO Youth and GPMS prepared to meet with Dong Jiao Zong or the DAP for a dialogue for their mistaken premises and false assumptions to be exposed – and to understand that while the issue is both educational and political, it  should be addressed  first as an educational issue before it is addressed as a political issue. 

Up to now, no one in Cabinet or the Education Ministry can make out a case for the educational soundness of the  proposed switch in the media of instruction for mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools,  that it would result in the improvement in the standards of mathematics, science and English and not the other way round with decline in standards in the three subjects. 

It is the Barisan Nasional leaders, including the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad, who are “politicizing” the issue in refusing to make out the case of the educational soundness of the proposal and relegating it to the “political solution” by the Barisan Nasional  leadership! 

I am prepared not only to meet Keng Yaik and Liong Sik on the this issue, but also with UMNO leaders, including the Education Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and even the Prime Minister – as this issue is not just a Malaysian Chinese issue, but a national issue. 

Of course, if I meet Keng Yaik and Liong Sik on this  and other issues of great concern to the Chinese community, considerable  care must be taken to ensure that it is not misunderstood or distorted into a “Chinese unity” to confront the Malays – in the way the 1987 Tien Hou Kong meeting of MCA, Gerakan and DAP leaders over the issue of appointment of senior assistants and headmasters non-conversant in Mandarin to Chinese primary schools was distorted in the subsequent Operation Lalang mass  arrests. 

Malaysians will be celebrating the 45th National Day in a month’s time and Malaysian Chinese just like Malaysians of other ethnic origins are beset with grave problems and challenges – which are reflected in the recent speeches by the Prime Minister on the worsening of “race-based extremism” in the country and the new Malay dilemma on the misinterpretation of Islam and the dependence on “crutches”, which are part of the new Malaysian dilemma. 

DAP calls for an all-party round-table conference to deal with these serious,  complex and at times intractable  nation-building challenges where leaders of all political parties, whether Barisan Nasional, Barisan Alternative or DAP, can come together to try to build a national consensus on the great issues of nation-building in a plural nation, economic development, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance.   


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman