Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak) secretary-general, Associate professor Rosli H. Mahat is amongst the growing number of intellectual Malays, who believes that vernacular school does not diminish one’s sense of patriotism and national identity. Bersatu youth chief and Deputy Youth and Sports Miniser Wan Ahmad Fayhsal had on 26 August, pressed for the abolition of vernacular schools in the country because he claimed its existence was unconstitutional and eroded national identity.
Rosli said that if that was true, why are so many Malay parents sending their children to Chinese schools. Rosli added that, “Whatever language you study in does not determine whether you are patriotic or how much you love the country”. Rosli was supported by Patriot president Brig-Gen (rtd) Mohamed Arshad Raji, who said there was no reason to stir up the issue of vernacular schools.
What is disturbing is that neither the Prime Minister nor Cabinet, including non-Malay Ministers, are willing to take a firm and unequivocal stand rejecting such racist rhetoric from the Bersatu Deputy Minister. Vernacular schools have operated before Merdeka and their existence has never been questioned as unconstitutional. In fact, an MP who called for the abolition of vernacular schools during a speech in Parliament, was charged and convicted for sedition in the 80s.
However, since the Perikatan Nasional government took office, racist rhetoric and religious extremism by government leaders, has not been repudiated, as if it is part of official policy. Such racist rhetoric and religious extremism only divide the people and set the country further apart, even after 63 years of Independence.
The loud silence and subservient inaction of Ministers, especially those who in the past had been most vocal in defending vernacular schools, is a gross betrayal of the rights of Malaysians and the Federal Constitution. Let us uphold Article 152(1) which clearly states that the national language shall be the Malay language, but Malaysians can use learn or teach other languages, as well as Federal or state governments can preserve and sustain, the use and study of other languages.
PN should put the national agenda of unity back on track by respecting the constitutional practice in place since 1957. Cabinet should lead the path of national unity forward by asking that the Deputy Minister apologise and withdraw his offensive call to abolish vernacular schools.