Leaders from both Johor and Sabah chapters of DAP have rebuked Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia Youth chief Wan Ahmad Fahysal Wan Ahmad Kamal’s call to abolish vernacular schools.
Johor DAP vice-chief Tan Chen Choon even called on the authorities to investigate Wan Ahmad for alleged sedition over his proposal, saying it was in conflict with the Federal Constitution.
“Article 152(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution states that no person shall be prohibited or barred from using (other than for official purposes), or from teaching or learning, any other language.
“The Sedition Act 1948 states that any person who questions any matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignty or prerogative prescribed or protected by the provisions of Part III of the Federal Constitution or Articles 152, 153 or 181 of the Federal Constitution contains elements inciting and prosecuting tendencies.
“Thus, Wan Ahmad’s statement questioning the matter with a statement to abolish vernacular schools may have violated the Sedition Act 1948 and the police should conduct an investigation,” said Tan in a statement.
He added that despite Wan Ahmad saying that he accepts diversity, the practice of mutual respect for each other among our multiracial community is the basis that brings harmony.
“In any type of society, the majority should not use hegemonic narratives or force the minority to accept values from the majority.
“On the other hand, the various races in our country need to have a common ground in addition to having the need to respect such diversity.
“Wan Ahmad’s statement to abolish vernacular schools has hurt the feelings of other races and he should withdraw the statement and apologise to the Chinese and Indian community,” said Tan.
Meanwhile, Sabah DAP secretary Ginger Phoong Jin Zhe explained that Sabah’s multi-ethnic society has been living in harmony even with its vernacular schools.
He said in Sabah, 71.5 percent of Sabah SJK(C) students are non-Chinese.
“However, the Chinese school students are still living harmoniously in Sabah society and to the extent, Malaysia society,” Phoong said.
He said that it was not vernacular schools that caused weak national identity, but ethno-centric politics that was the problem.
“It is ethno-centric political ideologies that Bersatu and other parties like MIC, MCA, Umno, has been advocating ― namely that these parties only fight for ‘certain ethnicities’, that have created this necessity for vernacular schools,” he said.
He lambasted Wan Ahmad for suggesting that by destroying the institution that has provided education for generations of non-Malays since the founding of the nation, that somehow magically and miraculously, the younger will display a “stronger national identity.”
Phoong said that abolishing vernacular schools is akin completely abolishing the cultural needs of other ethnic groups in Malaysia, specifically to deprive the ethnic non-Malays ― Chinese, Indian, Kadazan and other ethnic groups ― their constitutional rights to learn and study in their mother tongue on top of the national language.
Instead of “stoking the flames of racial supremacy and hijacking our education system for political mileage” Phoong said Wan Ahmad should look at how Sabah managed to build national identity by recognising the Chinese UEC examination last year.
Meanwhile, the Youth leaders of Pakatan Harapan (PH) and MCA took Wan Ahmad to task over his call for abolishment of vernacular schools.
In rebuking Wan Ahmad, MCA Youth chief Nicole Wong labelled his remark as an attempt to garner cheap publicity, while PH Youth leaders labelled the former as racist, in a strongly-worded joint statement.
Wong said that young leaders should possess forward-thinking skills in line with global progress, to be able to weather the challenges ahead.
“Vernacular schools are often blamed unfairly for allegedly not instilling the spirit of national unity, while there are many other factors that cause racial divisions.
“The act of blaming the national education system will not be able to solve the problem related to unity in Malaysia as a whole,” Wong wrote on her Facebook page.
She said that Wan Ahmad should not have issued such a remark as an easy way to gain traction.
“The fact is that the education system in this country needs to change dynamically, and it also needs to be transformed according to the current growing times, in the 21st century.
“This is aimed at ensuring that the goal of making Malaysia a centre of educational excellence in the Asian region, as well as internationally, or making the ‘World Class Education’ status a reality,” she added.
Wong said that National Unity Minister Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique has also assured that the government would not reform the nation’s education system by abolishing vernacular schools, with the aim of inculcating unity among Malaysians.
PH Youth leaders Howard Lee (DAP Socialist Youth), Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir (Angkatan Muda Keadilan) and Shazni Munir Mohd Ithnin (Pemuda Amanah Nasional) labelled Wan Ahmad’s statement as seditious.
The trio pointed to Article 152 of the Federal Constitution, which grants the freedom to other races to preserve and continue using other languages in the education context.
Article 152(1) states that the national language shall be the Malay language and that no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (except for official purposes) or from teaching or learning any other language.
“The only solution to ensure people like this deputy minister can no longer be in politics, is to ensure that he and those aligned to him, lose in the upcoming general election.
“Pemuda Harapan is of the view that this inverse, reckless and clear stance of violating the Federal Constitution as well as racism, is what needs to be abolished immediately, not in stages.
“Pemuda Harapan has always adhered to the policy of maintaining, empowering and improving all existing streams of education, including Sekolah Agama Rakyat (SAR) and missionary schools, which are guaranteed and protected by the Federal Constitution itself,” the trio added.
The trio also concurred with Wong that Wan Ahmad’s statement was a mere election gimmick to earn brownie points.
They also demanded that Wan Ahmad show empirical proof to support his claim.
“The former special officer’s claim that vernacular school pupils only exhibit ‘certain ethnic’ identities is actually an act of spitting at the sky, and having it land on your face instead,” they added.
Lee, Akmal and Shazni then pointed to statistics by the Education Ministry in 2018, which showed that the percentage of non-Chinese origin pupils in vernacular schools reached 18 percent of the 520,000 students enrolled in such schools nationwide.
“SJKC does not separate our children according to race or language. The division of society according to ethnic descent, as well as the growing nature of suspicion between races, stems from politicians like Mat Jargon who use cultural, racial, linguistic differences between us for their own political interests,” the trio said, referring to the social media term often used to tease Wan Ahmad.
“There must be efforts to ensure that politicians who have a tendency to incite for the sake of their own political interests disregarding the harmony between the people, are thwarted and dropped,” they added.
Wan Ahmad, who was recently appointed as the Armada wing chief, claimed in a statement that the vernacular schools have not produced students who possess a “strong national identity”.
He said that Armada also completely rejects the statement by Halimah in the Dewan Rakyat that vernacular schools will not be closed.
“Although the Education Act 1996, which replaced the Education Act 1961, abolished the discretion of the minister of education to close vernacular schools at any time, vernacular schools clearly have a negative perception with the common people when they fail to produce students who can show a strong national identity.
Wan Ahmad continued to argue, citing, among others, a study by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s (UKM) Prof Datuk Teo Kok Seong — who was recently appointed to the ministry’s National Unity Advisory Council — which found that many vernacular school graduates had only mastered their mother tongue.
This, he said, is at odds with the need to master the national language. – MMO