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Najib confirms BTN a political tool, says Maria

 | July 17, 2017

The Bersih 2.0 chief says the open call by the prime minister to use BTN to win elections is 'astoundingly' wrong.


PETALING JAYA: Another activist has questioned the contents of a government-organised course for civil servants and students, saying its programmes’ racist undertones had strayed away from the declared objective to instil patriotism

And the recent statement by Prime Minister Najib Razak only confirms that the 36-year-old National Civics Bureau (BTN) is just a political tool, says Maria Chin, who heads electoral reforms coalition Bersih 2.0.

Maria listed out a series of racist and derogatory remarks reported by participants of the programmes over the years.

They include calls to defend Malay supremacy, condemnations of those critical of government policies such as opposition leaders and the civil societies, as well as racist stereotyping by speakers to describe Malaysian Chinese and Indians.

“These are definitely racist ideas that should not be taught in BTN when its objective is to promote nationalism and unity,” she told FMT recently.

On Saturday, Najib, speaking at a Hari Raya gathering organised by BTN in Kuala Lumpur, saw the bureau as an important tool to help the government remain in power and win elections.

“This is why all of us must continue with our struggle… until the 14th, 15th, 16th and the next GE (general election) so that we will continue to win,” the Umno president said.

Maria said the statement showed Najib’s “astoundingly wrong assumption” while confusing the role of government agencies to include preserving the ruling party’s political power.

“The government is the executive branch and is meant to implement programmes, no matter what party is in power,” she added.

Critics including opposition politicians have called for the BTN to be disbanded, saying it had failed in its stated objective to instil patriotism.

“Malaysians do not need the BTN to educate them on patriotism,” said DAP’s Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto yesterday.

Responding to Najib’s open call for BTN to be used during elections, Kasthuri said this was not among the stated objectives of the agency, although speeches and slides delivered during its courses suggest that the agency was disrupting Malaysia’s harmony.

“Is the BTN now an Umno weapon?” she asked.

Last month, Amanah deputy president Salahuddin Ayub said 70% of BTN’s module was directed at inciting racial and religious hatred, while only 30% actually involved governance.

He also accused BTN of planting the seeds of terrorism through its programmes.

But Putrajaya has defended the need to continue the programme while acknowledging its shortcomings.

Last year, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said announced a “rebranding” of the agency in a move to make it more multiracial and apolitical.

Maria said the ideas being propagated at BTN programmes were racist and went against the agency’s original purpose as shown by leaked speeches and slides from its closed-door sessions.

BTN encouraging racism, says Amanah


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