SEREMBAN: Campaigning in the Rantau by-election turned ugly today following a war of words that led to a scuffle between an NGO protesting the Dual Language Programme (DLP) in schools and Pakatan Harapan supporters.
They also put up a banner saying “Tok Mat (Mohamad Hasan) supports mother tongue education while Dr S Streram says he is very busy”, alluding to the Umno and PH candidates in the by-election.
Initially, the NGO was protesting peacefully, calling on the government to reject the DLP and prioritise the use of Malay or vernacular languages in the respective schools.
Some 15 minutes later, a group of PH supporters came and the two groups got engaged in a war of words.
The PH supporters claimed that the NGO had come from outside Rantau to stir up trouble, while the NGO claimed that the PH supporters were provoking them.
Things got a bit heated at one point when the PH supporters grabbed the NGO’s banner. Things returned to normal when police arrived and instructed the PH supporters to disperse.
The PH supporters also returned the banner to the NGO, who put it up again.
The protest, which was also attended by Barisan Nasional supporters, ended without any injuries.
A representative of the NGO, L Theyaagu said they were there to voice their objections against the PH-led federal government.
“When they were in the opposition, they were with us in opposing the DLP.
“During the BN era, we were in the trenches with PH leaders. But now that they are the government, they have left us to suffer.”
Theyaagu urged voters to reject Streram and support Mohamad, since the ruling coalition has failed to prioritise mother tongue languages by continuing with the DLP.
The DLP gives students the option to study Mathematics and Science in English when the main medium is Bahasa Malaysia, Tamil or Chinese, depending on the type of school.
The programme, launched in 2016, has been lauded for helping to improve the standard of English among Malaysian students.
“We met Streram to complain about the DLP issue but he told us he is busy,” said Theyaagu, in voicing doubt that Streram would entertain them if he won as he could not even meet them now to hear their grievances.
“So, don’t support him,” said Theyaagu, adding that Mohamad, on the other hand, supported their efforts.
Theyaagu admitted that the NGO comprised outsiders, but that it also had supporters from Rantau.