Two issues concerning national unity during my submission to the Select Committee on National Unity and National Service at the Parliament House on Saturday, April 30, 2005.

Media Statement
Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Besides urging the Government to review the National Service scheme including the cancellation of the entire RM 500 million-a-year project, I have also taken the opportunity to highlight two issues concerning national unity during my submission to the Select Committee on National Unity and National Service at the Parliament House on Saturday, April 30, 2005.

I:         Place of Worship and the role of IFC


Difficulty in getting approval for building of places of worship is not uncommon in Malaysia. Catholics living in and around Shah Alam have yet to obtain an approval to build their church here after so many years.


On the other hand, green lungs and open fields were often forced to give way to suraus and temples, causing tension among the different ethnic groups in the neighbourhood.


The residents of Taman SEA in Petaling Jaya are now facing a similar dilemma. Some Muslims living here wanted to build a surau at the children playground. They could not get the support from the local non-Muslim majority.


Those who have objected to the plan hold the view that the children playground should remain as a playground for the children. They hope MPPJ, the local government would not approve the application to build a surau on the existing playground.


The local residents have launched a signature campaign to say no to the building of surau here. The campaign receives overwhelming support from the local non-Muslim majority except the local state assemblyman and Member of Parliament. Both of the MCA elected representatives have refused to endorse the campaign, citing sensitive issue as an excuse. They have even refused to put down their signatures on the signature book.


There is no single arbitrary body that can deal with such issue effectively in the country. MPPJ finds it difficult to decide on the matter. The MP and SA have refused to help the local residents. They have lost their raison d’etre as wakil rakyat, the elected representatives of the people. But the issue at hand must be resolved amicably before it turns ugly.


The proposed Interfaith Commission (IFC) would come in handy to tackle issues of this nature. The leaders of different faiths in the IFC could look into the merits and demerits of the whole case before making a fair decision.


II.                Vernacular primary schools not a disuniting factor


Racial polarization continues to plague the nation after 46 years of Independence. Many UMNO politicians and academics have in the past conveniently put the blame on vernacular primary schools such as SJKCs sans SJKTs. Even the Prime Minister had said something to that an effect, which he had retracted only after a big NO from the Chinese community.


The ethnic biased policies and unfair treatments to certain ethnic communities in the country were the real disuniting factors. Such policies, regulations and practices have put national unity in great jeopardy-not the vernacular primary schools.


Vernacular primary schools were using textbooks and curriculums designed and approved by the Ministry of Education. As such, the contents were very much similar with those used by the sekolah kebangsaan (national schools, SKs).


All students in the primary level, whether they were studying in the national or the national types, were basically receiving the same type of education. Subjects like History, Geography, Moral Education, Mathematics and Science were all sharing the same contents. Even the contents in subjects on languages were largely similar.


For a long time until today, more than 90% of the students graduated from SJKCs join sekolah menengah kebangsaan (the national secondary schools), leaving only about 10% pursuing their studies in various private secondary schools and du zhong (Chinese independent public high schools sponsored by the community).


On the other hand, the Government continues to run single race secondary schools and colleges such as MARA, Ungku Omar and many other boarding schools cater only for the Malays. This contradicts sharply with arguments that centered on the need of putting students of different races under one roof as a prerequisite for national unity. It also exposes the hollowness and hypocrisy of government leaders who often stir up sentiments with such theory.


Politicians should stop putting the blame on vernacular primary schools if they cannot put in more efforts in reforms or at least stop introducing ethnic biased policies and regulations.

Please think about it.    



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