Observers of Chinese politics in Malaysia believe any hope the community has of getting the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) recognised by the government is a distant dream.
Though Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin met the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Huazong) leadership last month, his Perikatan Nasional administration’s stance on Chinese issues is still unclear.
Political commentator Cheah See Kian told The Malaysian Insight PN may well continue with the previous government’s policies on the UEC.
“I think to even discuss it further with the government won’t be easy.”
Muhyiddin’s meeting with Huazong was followed by erroneous news reports that he had told the federation Putrajaya would recognise the certification.
Both the Prime Minister’s Office and Huazong denied these reports, saying the matter will have to be addressed in “further talks based on government policies and the country’s situation”.
The PMO clarification also said Muhyiddin acknowledges that the UEC has gained partial recognition from Putrajaya, which now accepts certificate holders for a teaching degree programme specialising in the Chinese language at the government’s teacher training institutes.
There are still conditions to this acceptance, such as obtaining a pass in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia and, at a minimum, a credit for Bahasa Melayu, in line with the National Education Policy.
Cheah said it is unrealistic to expect full recognition of the UEC, which is taken by pupils at independent Chinese high schools, as previous governments, including the one led by Pakatan Harapan, never reached a consensus on the matter.
“If it was already difficult to reach a consensus when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister (of the PH government), how will it be different with Muhyiddin?”
PH, in its election manifesto, promised to look into obtaining formal recognition for the UEC, and set up a special task force to study the matter. The committee has yet to submit its report to the current government.
Government recognition of the certification has been a hot-potato issue for the community, as it relates to the holder’s eligibility for jobs in states’ civil service or state-linked companies.
Some states, such as Malacca, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor and Penang, accept recruits with the UEC.
Cheah said previous governments, whether Barisan Nasional or PH, used the UEC issue to gain Chinese support.
However, it has proven a difficult promise to fulfil because of the balancing act between the community’s demands and objections from Malay nationalist groups.
“Once you get into power, it becomes a long process,” said Cheah.
“The UEC special review committee has yet to submit its report, so how can we say we are any closer to a decision?”
He added that Muhyiddin’s government appears to be sticking to the “status quo” with regard to its approach to the Chinese community.
International Islamic University Malaysia’s Professor Lau Zhe Wei, however, feels that the PN government is taking a harder line on such issues.
The political studies lecturer said this can be seen in its policies relating to tobacco, alcohol, gambling and other areas regarded as criminal under Islamic law.
“The economic sectors that involve these elements are the last to reopen under the Covid-19 pandemic (restrictions),” he said, referring to nightclubs, entertainment centres and casinos, which still cannot operate under the recovery movement-control order.
Lau also expects PN to raise taxes on tobacco and alcohol in the next national budget.
He believes Umno and PAS will concede to MCA when it comes to things like contesting the ethnic Chinese party’s seats during elections, such as in the Tg Piai by-election last year, but other than that, the parties will simply avoid issues that may cause controversy for MCA.
Thus, Chinese voters should not expect the government to seriously pursue recognition of the UEC, he said.
“With Umno, PAS and Bersatu now working together, the Chinese shouldn’t even hope for it.” – TMI