DAP MPs deny members told to toe the line over khat

Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh.

PETALING JAYA: Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh today dismissed a report that DAP members at a special meeting on Monday had been told to toe the line regarding the stir over the introduction of khat calligraphy for Year 4 students in vernacular schools, saying nothing could be further from the truth.

In a statement, he said he had been present at the meeting and that members were given the freedom to express their views on the khat issue without any restrictions and to suggest possible solutions to the matter.

“None of us were told to watch our words or that we were not entitled to be concerned about the issue,” he added.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a DAP leader had told FMT that the party’s secretary-general Lim Guan Eng had expressed unhappiness with a group of lawmakers who had “whacked” the policy.

The leader said Lim had reminded the members that they must behave like the government, and that other groups should be taken into consideration as well, not just the Chinese.

According to the leader, Lim said some party leaders had, in recent days, acted in a way “that made it seem like that they were against Jawi itself, which shouldn’t have been the case”.

But Ramkarpal said none of this was true although the leadership had ultimately agreed that an official statement on the matter would be issued.

“[T]he entire purpose of the meeting that day was to hear the views of party members first.

“It is unfortunate that certain leaders choose to falsely tarnish the image of the party and hide behind the cloak of anonymity,” he added.

The controversy began after the education ministry said it would introduce lessons on khat, the calligraphic form of Jawi, as part of the Bahasa Melayu syllabus for Year 4 pupils in vernacular schools beginning next year.

The news was initially resisted by Chinese and Tamil interest groups including educationist groups Dong Zong and Jiao Dong.

However, a consensual decision was reached after a meeting with the ministry yesterday.

Jelutong MP RSN Rayer also denied that party leaders at the meeting had instructed members to toe the line.

In a statement, he said it had been “a very productive and healthy discussion where all elected representatives were invited and given ample opportunity and time to express their views, which they did in a very constructive way”.

“I wish to state that the purpose of the meeting was to hear the views of the elected representatives in a true democratic fashion which DAP always practises.

“It is regrettable that certain leaders have chosen to sabotage the party by making false and baseless allegations deliberately with the intention of tarnishing the reputation of the party to further add to the controversy.”