DAP leaders meet as party threatens to implode over khat rage

A DAP supporter outside DAP’s Menglembu assemblyman’s service centre in Ipoh, where he vented anger over the move to introduce khat for Year 4 vernacular students by throwing eggs.

PETALING JAYA: DAP grassroots members are up in arms over the apparent defence by party leaders of the education ministry’s move to introduce a chapter on the Malay-Arabic calligraphy of khat in the Year 4 Bahasa Melayu syllabus in vernacular schools next year.

Tens of thousands of messages have flooded the social media pages of DAP leaders as well as private chat groups for divisional members, with some threatening open rebellion if the party does not oppose the move, which many parents of Chinese school students label an unnecessary burden.

“The reactions I’m getting are very negative,” a senior DAP leader in Selangor told FMT under strict condition of anonymity.

He said many are accusing the party of “caving in” to government policies seen as undermining the community, adding that they want DAP to show it will not be “another MCA”.

The DAP leadership plans to meet today to come up with an official stand on the matter.

Yesterday, party supremo Lim Kit Siang dismissed fears by the Chinese community over the teaching of khat, the calligraphy of Jawi, a variant of Arabic script widely used for the Malay written form before it was romanised.

Lim recalled his own experience learning Jawi when he was detained under the Internal Security Act in 1969.

Chow Siok Ming (left), who staged a protest against the teaching of khat outside a DAP service centre in Ipoh, meeting Menglembu assemblyman Chaw Kam Foon.

“It did not make me any less of a Chinese, and may have helped in making me more of a Malaysian,” he said.

But despite Lim’s influence, the statement did not help ease tempers among the grassroots.

As of press time, more than 35,000 mostly angry comments have greeted a statement by Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching to allay concerns by parents by saying that her ministry is engaging with various groups on the best way to include khat in the Bahasa Melayu syllabus.

At least one of the opponents decided to vent his anger by pelting a DAP leader’s office with eggs.

The man took his two daughters to Menglembu assemblyman Chaw Kam Foon’s service centre in Ipoh, and uploaded a video of him engaging in a foul-mouthed rant before pelting the premise with eggs.

“I voted DAP last year and for the last six general elections,” he said.

“Please DAP, don’t betray us Chinese. We believed what you said.”

The man was arrested and later released.

Chaw said he had met the man, whom he said was only expressing his fears as a concerned citizen.

The move to introduce khat in the Bahasa Melayu syllabus for national-type schools was first opposed by Chinese educationist groups Dong Zong and Jiao Zong.

They said khat is “not suitable” as part of learning the national language and would only burden the students and teachers.

The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) however was in support of the move and said it should not be politicised.

“Our stand is that anything which is educational and non-religious is acceptable. Khat is Arabic calligraphy, the exposure does not mean religious content is being taught to our students,” NUTP secretary-general Harry Tan told FMT.

He also said the additional unit on khat in the textbook would be introductory, and that students would not be assessed or required to purchase special calligraphy pens.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad dismissed the protests against the khat move, saying only some in DAP were against the idea.

Many DAP leaders FMT spoke to said they had received angry comments from supporters who threatened not to vote for DAP anymore.

“Khat is only the tip of the iceberg. (There has been) a series of unrealised promises including on the Unified Examination Certificate, a bad economy and U-turns on reforms,” said a state leader.

He said many see Education Minister Maszlee Malik as incompetent.

“No changes in education policies – instead we saw the introduction of ‘black shoes and khat’,” he added, referring to Maszlee’s move last year to replace white school shoes.