The prime minister has called Dong Zong (the National Chinese School Committees’ Association) racist because of its opposition to the inclusion of khat in the primary school Bahasa Melayu curriculum.
According to Dr Mahathir Mohamad, “if the education organisation continued to instigate and incite people to fight against each other, it would be going against the law… If you look at the background of Dong Zong, it has never fought for Malaysians. It has only fought for one race in this country.”
He cited the instance, during his first tenure as prime minister, when the idea of Sekolah Wawasan was mooted to bring students of national and vernacular schools together in one place, but was opposed by Dong Zong at the time.
“They objected to that because it would cause Malay children to mix with Chinese children. It is a very racist way of thinking. What is wrong with Malays, Chinese and others going to school together?” Mahathir said, adding that such an assembly where all three school types were together is “anathema” to Dong Zong.
Mahathir’s chop logic
The prime minister calling Dong Zong racist because they oppose the inclusion of khat in the primary school Bahasa Melayu curriculum is patently obscurantist when the whole country knows there are so many Malay academicians and even his old comrade-in-arms, Rafidah Aziz, who also oppose this unwise decision.
To extend his specious argument by another falsehood that Dong Zong has never fought for Malaysians but only for the Chinese is spreading inexactitude.
For one thing, Mahathir knows full well that Dong Zong was the organisation that led so many other associations to submit their “Suqiu” memorandum during the 1999 general election. That memorandum covers many of the promises in the Pakatan Harapan GE14 manifesto.
Even before that, in 1985, Dong Zong led the other major associations to submit the “Joint Declaration” to Mahathir’s government. This declaration was another across-the-board memorandum that made demands, on behalf of all Malaysians, irrespective of ethnicity.
Mahathir knows this for among my “Allegations of fact”, in my Operation Lalang detention, was that I had drafted this “Joint Declaration”. The prime minister can also ask his Special Branch to compile all the press statements by Dong Zong since the 1980s in which he will see Dong Zong voicing out the grouses of workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, women, the environment and other public policies through the Civil Rights Committee.
Mahathir’s twisted logic on ‘Vision Schools’
The prime minister attempts to twist Dong Zong’s opposition to “Sekolah Wawasan” in 2000 into the vile allegation that Dong Zong does not want to see Malaysians of different ethnicities mixing together. This is easily disproven when we confront the fact that Dong Zong has welcomed Malaysians of all ethnicities into the Chinese schools through the years – Malays, Indians, Orang Asli and other indigenous peoples of East Malaysia.
The figure for non-Chinese in Chinese schools is close to 100,000 today and these are mainly Malay, which shows their faith in Chinese schools. In schools such as those where there are Orang Asli settlements, the Chinese school authorities even proffer scholarships to these students.
These are the facts surrounding why Dong Zong opposed the Vision Schools:
In 2000, the government had given the impression that Vision Schools would be additional Chinese and Tamil schools. However, it turned out that the Vision Schools proposed were not additional Chinese or Tamil schools. They were first and foremost new Malay-language schools but their Chinese and Tamil component schools were relocated existing Chinese and Tamil schools.
Most importantly, the Chinese and Tamil schools would lose their autonomy in these Vision Schools. At the time, the five Chinese schools which had been included in the Vision Schools programme were not properly consulted beforehand.
There was a previous controversial Integrated Schools Project in 1985 after which Dong Zong held consultations with the education ministry and agreed to the “Programme to Integrate Pupils Toward Unity” in 1986.
This involved various activities to promote interaction between different schools. After a promising start, the education ministry decided to halt this programme. Dong Zong stands committed to this programme which we believe is a more meaningful means of promoting integration and inter-cultural understanding. Thus, it is totally irresponsible of the PM to tell the nation that Dong Zong does not want to see pupils of different ethnicities mixing.
I for one have always advocated creating “Education Precincts” in order to promote integration and to make the most of scarce resources.
This involves having the different language schools built close to each other so that they can share scarce quality resources and facilities such as the library, playing field, park, sports complex, stadium, computer labs, etc.
The annual sports day and other competitions could be jointly organised. The same can be done for artistic and cultural events. This will not only promote integration but will surely improve the quality of our athletes and performing artistes.
The main difference between this concept and “Vision Schools” is that in the proposed education precinct, all the different language schools maintain their autonomy as in the status quo.
Mahathir should pause and ponder before casting the first stone
Thus, if I were the prime minister, I would be wary of accusing others of racism or racial discrimination. After all, he is the supreme leader of a party that is strictly for only one race, the “Pribumi”, even though the definition of “who is a Pribumi” is an anthropological puzzle.
Then again, his magnum opus, the “Malay Dilemma”, is grounded in the racist paradigm which is an embarrassment in most academic departments of the world.
Finally, how can he accuse Dong Zong of being racist and not wanting Malaysians to mix when he champions the “Bumis Only” policy at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), which is the closest we can get to an apartheid policy in this country!
Kua Kia Soong is Suaram adviser.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.