Chinese in Malaysia luckier than in Singapore, Indonesia, says Utusan op-ed

PETALING JAYA: Utusan Malaysia today said Malaysian Chinese are more fortunate than Chinese in Singapore and Indonesia, where no vernacular schools are allowed.

An opinion piece by one of its senior editors, supporting Putrajaya’s stand in introducing khat lessons in primary schools, said Singapore, under its founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, had shut down Chinese schools and education institutions before introducing English as a medium for national schools in the republic.

“Eight weeks after its separation from Malaysia, in October 1966, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, supported by Chinese teachers’ unions, Chinese press editors and community leaders, urged the Singapore government to give an assurance that the Chinese language will be one of the official languages.

“Even before the campaign could begin, Lee nipped it in the bud, saying all main languages in Singapore have the same status even though at the time, he had plans to make English as the main language,” wrote Zulkifli Jalil under his column “Tumpang Lalu” in the Malay daily.

He said Lee later warned Chinese educationists that he would not allow anyone to exploit the Chinese language for political purposes.

“There were some student leaders from Malaysia who continued to protest by leading demonstrations involving students from Nanyang University and Ngee Ann College in front of his office.

“Lee ordered them to be arrested and deported to Malaysia.”

Zulkifli said in 1987, English became the official medium of instruction in all schools in Singapore, bringing to an end Chinese, Malay and Indian vernacular schools.

He said the English-medium schools put a stop to racial sentiments.

Meanwhile, he said Indonesia adopted a single-stream school system with Bahasa Indonesia as the medium of instruction.

In Malaya, the government made Malay the medium of instruction in national schools and universities but allowed Chinese and Indian vernacular schools to continue at the primary level.

“The fact is Chinese Malaysians are more fortunate than those in Singapore and Indonesia,” the column went on to say.