Press Statement (2) by Charles Santiago in Klang on Tuesday, 2nd December 2008:

Promote not attack vernacular education to secure UMNO Youth votes  

I vehemently denounce Mukhriz Mahathir's call to abolish vernacular schools in the country. It shows a total lack of sensitivity to the non-Malays in Malaysia. His proposal to streamline Chinese and Tamil schools into one Malaysian education system to promote national unity is nonsensical.

Vernacular schools do not prevent racial unity in the country. In fact, it is race-based policies in civil service employment, awarding of contracts and discrimination against minority communities and marginalisation of the poor that hampers national unity.

Mukhriz must also stop reinforcing the off-limits policies which centre around Ketuanan Melayu or Malay supremacy and special privileges for the Malays which are designed to further alienate the non-Malays, another source of disunity in the country.

Let us look at the federal allocation for schools - the government disbursed RM1.48 million to 248 Chinese primary schools while it dished out RM709 million to build 15 new Mara Junior Science Colleges.

The number of Tamil primary schools dipped from 526 in 2001 to 523 in 2006 despite a 12.7% increase in enrolment. The new intake in 2001 numbered 88,810 students and rose to 100,142 students in 2006.

At present there are about 50,000 Malay students enrolled in vernacular schools.

Mukhriz's argument is irrational.

It is clear that his statement is aimed at securing support among UMNO Youth members, an act which could land him the top job as youth chief at the party's election scheduled for March 2009.

Mukhriz should be deeply ashamed for politicizing mother-tongue education to further his career in ruling UMNO.

Mukhriz must also immediately retract his statement and instead encourage the government to provide the necessary funds to vernacular schools to upgrade its existing infrastructure and build new facilities.

* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang