Analysts: Anwar, PH’s hands tied on UEC

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If the certificate was acknowledged, PN would use it as a tool to criticise the government, accusing it of marginalising Malay-Muslim rights.

It’s not surprising that the government has chosen not to acknowledge the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) given the current political climate that has tied the hands of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his coalition, Pakatan Harapan, said analysts.

Political scientist Professor Dr Wong Chin Huat of Sunway University who spoke to the FMT, pointed out the government’s coalition diversity.

While, Asian Studies Professor James Chin, from the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute, suggested that Anwar did not possess enough political influence to pursue policies that may not sit well with the Malay community.

The UEC is a standardised examination held by the Malaysian Independent Chinese Secondary Schools (MICSS).

Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek had on March 1 said the ministry had no plans to recognise the UEC. She said this stand was based on the National Education Policy, and the Education Act 1996.

On March 4, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said he will hold a meeting with Fadhlina on the matter to get an explanation of the reason behind the ministry’s decision.

One of the significant promises made in the PH’s manifesto for the 15th general election (GE15) was to acknowledge the UEC.

The coalition committed to ensuring that public higher education institutions would acknowledge the UEC, provided that applicants had at least earned a credit for the Bahasa Melayu paper in their SPM examination.

Wong said it was reasonable for the government to abandon the intention to recognise the UEC as it could be not only ineffective but could also jeopardise the government’s survival.

“The government is vulnerable to Perikatan Nasional’s nationalist attack, it’s politically wise not to pursue it (recognising UEC),” FMT quoted him as saying.

He said recognising the UEC was impossible because Anwar’s government did not secure a majority of the Malay vote in GE15.

If the certificate was acknowledged, PN would use it as a tool to criticise the government, accusing it of marginalising Malay-Muslim rights, Wong said.

Meanwhile, Chin said DAP, a component of PH, was the most affected by this decision since they had openly advocated for recognising the UEC and would now need to clarify their position.

However, he said, despite not recognising the UEC, the decision is unlikely to affect the support of non-Malay voters for PH in the upcoming state elections.

When PH was previously in government, they created a task force to gather opinions on recognising the UEC, which was a part of their manifesto for the 14th general election in 2018.

Sociologist Eddin Khoo led the task force which also comprised Raimi Abdul Rahim, then Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Abim) president, and Tan Yew Sing, then Dong Zong deputy president.

However, all progress towards recognising the UEC was halted after the government change in February 2020, despite the completion of the task force’s report. – FMT