PETALING JAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s labelling of the Chinese educationist group Dong Zong as “racist” has sparked calls to rise above name-calling, amid criticism of the prime minister for being unfair and insensitive.
Vincent Lau, a former chairman of the Dong Zong, said Mahathir’s comments were unfair. “When the people oppose, you call them racist,” he said, adding it was not right for government leaders to resort to name-calling against those who disagreed with its decisions.
“The government is just too insensitive to the voice of the people. The prime minister and his ministers are appointed for all Malaysians, not just one particular group,” he told FMT.
Mahathir had criticised Dong Zong for its opposition to the introduction of khat lessons as part of the Year 4 Bahasa Melayu syllabus for vernacular schools next year.
Klang MP Charles Santiago said Mahathir’s remarks were indicative that the situation was getting out of hand. “It just goes to show what happens when the government does not consult the people. Accusing Dong Zong of racism just shows we are not engaging stakeholders enough,” the DAP man told FMT.
Santiago said he was not against anyone learning khat but the different Pakatan Harapan parties should strive for a consensus on the khat policy.
“Labelling those who don’t agree with the government all sorts of names does not help anyone. We are talking about a New Malaysia that believes in doing things differently.”
He said the days of the “government knowing best” were over. The PH-led government should consult the people, from whom it derived its mandate, rather than behaving in the manner of the previous Barisan Nasional-led administration.
Johor DAP committee member Dr Boo Cheng Hau said Mahathir should do more “field work” and understand how Dong Zong ran a multilingual education system.
“I believe there is a lot of misunderstanding of Dong Zong which has been running a multilingual education system in the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC).”
Accusing Dong Zong as being racist, he said, was not only wrong but irresponsible. “Mahathir should no longer live with the same prejudice and ignorance; that will only adversely affect the country’s development,” he said.
The secretary of the Parent Action Group for Education, Tunku Munawirah Putra, said Mahathir’s frustrations with the different education groups were understandable because of their resistance to many government proposals and plans.
“We at PAGE are most concerned about getting our schools and education system on the right track, and making the national schools the school of choice. There are many more important subjects and topics that ought to be introduced and encouraged,” she said.
Dong Zong has launched a petition against the government’s decision on khat. The group claims that research had shown khat was a medium to spread Islam. This is something the government has repeatedly denied.
Dong Zong is expected to respond to Mahathir’s remarks later today.