Single race parties and divide and rule policies are real disuniting factors, not SJKCs

Media Statement
by Ronnie Liu

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday): Many Malaysians were disappointed with the comments made by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday, when he says that building more  Chinese primary schools would jeopardize the unity among the different races in this country.

Such shocking, biased and baseless comments coming from none other than the No.1 leader of the country have hurt the feelings of the Chinese community, which in general are ardent supporters of SJKCs. At this point of time, 9 out of 10 Chinese parents prefer to send their children to SJKCs. Currently, there are about 65,000 Non-Malays students studying in the SJKCs. I guess their parents too may not find the PM’s statement acceptable.

SJK stands for Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaana (national-type); Abdullah has made a big mistake when he describes the SJKCs as bukan kebangsaan( non-national). Both the SKs and SJKs share the same curriculum; the only difference lies in the medium of language. It’s therefore also wrong for him to claim that there are two different types of primary education system. It’s unforgivable for a former Minister of Education to make such a glaring mistake.

It appears to us that the Prime Minister has not only forgotten about his 2004 general election pledges (Barisan Nasional put up full page full colours advertisements in various newspapers, making many promises on the development of SJKCs and mother tongue education), he has also ignored the human rights of the Malaysian Chinese, for receiving mother tongue education is a fundamental right enshrined in our Federal Constitution and the UN Human Rights Declarations.

His statement has also crushed the hopes of many parents living in urban areas such as Johor Bahru, Cheras, Puchong, Subang Jaya and Petaling Jaya. The acute shortage of SJKCs in their areas had cost them many sleepless nights and great inconveniences. Many of them have to sacrifice valuable sleeps to send their kids to schools far way from homes.  

We support his call to strengthen sekolah kebangsaan. Many Malaysian parents including senior Cabinet ministers have lost confidence in sekolah kebangsaan. They prefer to send their kids to international schools or the private ones such as Sri Inai and Sri Cempaka. Some of them even prefer to send their kids to boarding schools in UK and the United States.

But the strengthening of sekolah kebangsaan must not sacrifice the development of the sekolah jenis kebangsaan including Chinese primary schools.

If the PM really wants to listen to the truth, I would not hesitate to tell him that single race parties which practice divide and rule techniques and racial policies were the biggest disuniting factor in this country. It’s the sense of injustices and unhappiness arising from preferential treatments and inequalities that preventing us from emerging as a truly united nation after years of gaining independence from the British.

I would like to give just one example to illustrate my point of view. While we understand the need of affirmative actions under the NEP, one cannot expect a student who passed their STPM or SPM with flying colours to feel happy and good when he or she was rejected by the local universities purely because of his or her skin colour.

Many have given their valuable views on the subject of national unity over the live Debat Perdana over TV1 beginning from this year. It looks like the debate has very little or no impact in correcting the views and understandings of our political leaders.

On the surface of it, putting our young children of different ethnic backgrounds together with an intention to encourage intermingling and cross-culture understanding can be a good idea. But good intention alone is not good enough to foster racial relations. Our young children in the schools and universities are not living in a vacuum. The moment our young children sense that there are so much of inequalities and injustices in our socio-economic and educational systems, they will begin to ask those questions which are very difficult for their parents to answer. That largely explains why polarization has reached such a shameful height in some local universities.

At the end of the day, it’s justice, freedom, equality and democracy that make peace, harmony and goodwill a reality among the people.

Stop pointing your finger else where, my dear honorable Prime Minister.


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP International Secretary and NGO bureau chief