Tuesday 8 December 2009

Get your facts right before protesting

I really wonder if the inability of some Malaysians to differentiate between Hak-hak Keistimewaan orang Melayu, Ketuanan Melayu and Dasar Ekonomi Baru, is intentional, or are they honestly confused?

I write this in response to the protest by an NGO, against DAP MP M. Kulasegaran. Yes, he's from the DAP, I'm from the MIC. We may be on different sides of the political divide, but I think the man deserves a little breathing space, rather than the unjust hounding he is receiving of late with regards to his questioning the Ketuanan Melayu slogan. The NGO has promised to 'look for him no matter which corner of the world he is in, unless he apologizes'. Why apologize?

First, let us look at the three issues. Hak-hak Keistimewaan orang Melayu, or the Special Rights of the Malay community, as enshrined in the constitution, states that Islam is the official religion of the state, but non-Muslims are allowed to practise their religion without fear or favour. It also states that Malay is the official language of the state. THAT is it. Religion, language. THAT is also what our forefathers agreed during the Social Contract.

Ketuanan Melayu on the other hand, is a slogan. It has no official bearing on the nation. It is more of a battle cry, something without a proper legal definition. Instead, it literally means Malay Supremacy, which as its name suggest, is inherently racist. It is NOT something in the constitution, neither is it anywhere in the policy of the nation or government. In fact, it is well against the concept of 1Malaysia, which is exactly what YB Kula has said. So what is there to apologize?

Dasar Ekonomi Baru or New Economic Policy, is a national economic framework, espousing economic benefits, originally meant to give a helping hand to the Malay community to get a slice of the economic pie. It originally came with an expiry date, which is now conveniently forgotten, and has since been extended with every 5-year Malaysia Plan. Again, it is NOT something in the constitution. It is just an economic plan, which by the admission of no less than our Second Finance Minister himself, is crippling the nation's competitive edge.

Nowhere in the constitution does it say that a Bumiputera must receive a discount when he buys a house. It is just something part of a governmental policy, and again, it need not be forever, and is certainly not beyond question or review. Nowhere does it say, also, Bumiputera students should get an easier ride into places of higher education, or should be given priority for scholarship. All that is government policy, done for a certain reason, good or bad, and is certainly not beyond question or review. It is certainly wrong for me, or anyone else, to ask that these policies be reviewed to better suit current times, and a globally changing competitive climate.

The non-Bumiputeras, the majority at least, have no problems with the Special Rights of the Malays, as enshrined by the constitution. That's the Social Contract. We respect that. No problem. Let Islam be the official religion. But don't force it upon us. Because THAT violates OUR constitutional rights. Let Malay be the official language of the Federation. But don't rob us of our rights to speak, read, write and be educated in our mother languages. Because THAT is our constitutional right.

What we ARE asking, and questioning, is merely the OTHER two. Get rid of Ketuanan Melayu. It's racist. Instead, let us embrace 1Malaysia. Get rid of DEB. It has outlived its usefullness. Replace it instead with a system that helps the poor across all race and religious boundaries. Again, that is 1Malaysia.

Just because someone questions something well within their rights to question, doesn't mean you can claim that the person 'should not say anything that can jeopardize the harmony among the races'. In the first place, if I, or anyone else, asks a LEGITIMATE question, and someone gets upset unnecessarily, arrest him instead! Of course, if someone DOES question the Special Rights of the Malays as enshrined in the constitution, then one can at least justify condemning him. But to confuse Ketuanan Melayu and DEB with the Special Rights, is not only wrong, it is downright cunning.

So the next time you want to come out on the streets and protest, and ask for our blood, get your facts right first!

Tuesday 1 December 2009

10 Subject Ceiling for SPM - What's the big deal?

Well, it IS a big deal. Here's why. Let us take a typical Science stream SPM students. Now, seven subjects are compulsory. They are Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mathematics, Moral Studies (or Islamic studies for Muslims), History and two Science Subjects out of the main three, i.e. Physics, Chemistry and Biology. (For Arts stream, it's six, i.e. the five core subjects, and Basic Science). Most schools plan their time table in such a way, that it is pretty much a 'package deal' that a pure science student would take all the three science subjects, and Additional Maths. So that makes it nine subjects. Which means, the student has only one extra subject to take, and more often than not, it would be Accounts, or another subject that is already being taught in the school. There you go, ten. Maximum. Which also means, the student is pretty much prevented from taking Tamil, Tamil Literature and/or Chinese, Chinese Literature.

The Director-General of Education released a nonsensical statement today defending the ten subject rule, saying a student can always drop an elective subject, say Physics, to accommodate a vernacular subject, if the student was interested in pursuing a career in medicine. He went on to even suggest that schools may offer vernacular subjects as 'certificate courses', with school-level assessment. Third, he had the audacity to suggest that vernacular subjects were not that important, since "education is continuous, so the students can always study vernacular subjects later". Downright idiotic!

I can't speak for my Chinese friends, but I know for a fact that Tamil language is facing extinction, within Malaysian Indians. Many can't even speak proper Tamil, let alone read and/or write. We have an uphill battle keeping Tamil alive, as it is, without the Education Ministry further frustrating efforts with their new ruling.

Besides, how many students are willing to sacrifice subjects taught in school, just to take Tamil and/or Tamil Literature. How can we expect a student, at four four, barely sixteen, to drop Physics since he is planning to do medicine, and take Tamil instead? I think that's a rather heavy decision to force on a student, considering dropping Physics would put him/her at a disadvantage in pursuing many career paths!

Even if a student is really keen in taking Tamil as an SPM subject, at the heavy cost of another subject, how many schools even have proper teachers teaching Tamil? The Ministry actually has a ruling that a school must have a minimum of fifteen students taking the subject, to even offer classes. This conveniently allows many schools to forget the subject even exists, or even discourage students taking an extra subject. Students who take Tamil at SPM level today, already do so at a great disadvantage, and put in individual effort. To do so after the new ruling, and pay such a high price, even I would not dare to encourage someone to take Tamil! Even if somehow, the student finds a way to squeeze in Tamil, you can sure as anything, forget about Tamil Literature in addition to that!

We're not asking for much. Just increase the maximum to 12 subjects. It shouldn't be that great a deal, considering only last year we had students boasting up to 21 A's in the newspapers. So if we could have students taking that many subjects previously, I don't see any considerable reason why we need to be so stringent all of a sudden. Unless of course, as some claim, and I sure hope not, there IS a planned, secret agenda to rid the country of vernacular education. I for one, and the MIC that I represent, will simply NOT LET THAT HAPPEN!