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Parliamentary Roundtable inviting all MPs, political parties, educational groups and NGOs  to be convened early next month to seek fair treatment and justice for Chinese and Tamil primary schools in 2007 Budget and Ninth Malaysia Plan as no Chinese or Tamil primary school included in the list of 180 new primary schools

by Lim Kit Siang  


(Batu Gajah, Saturday) :  A Parliamentary Roundtable inviting all MPs, political parties, educational groups and NGOs  will  be convened early next month to seek fair treatment and  justice for Chinese and Tamil primary schools in the  2007 Budget and Ninth Malaysia Plan as there is  not a single  Chinese or  Tamil primary school included in the list of 180 new primary schools for the five-year plan till 2010.


Parliament has passed the second-reading of the RM159 billion Budget 2007 after a 12-day debate ending on Thursday, but the detailed Ministry-by-Ministry debate on the budget allocations next year will only begin on November 6 when Parliament reconvenes after a six-week break for the puasa month and holidays.


The committee stage debate for the 2007 Budget involving a Ministry-by-Ministry examination is scheduled for 19 days, with the Education Ministry’s RM22.2 billion estimates for next year fixed for debate on November 27.


This means that the 2007 Budget has not yet been passed, and it is possible to make amendments to  it before the  2007 Budget is adopted by Parliament after the committee stage debate of the allocations for the 28 Ministries on December 7, 2006.


I had asked the Second Finance Minister, Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop when he was winding up the second-reading debate on the 2007 Budget on Thursday how the 2007 Budget could be amended if there is rank injustice, as in the total omission in building new Chinese and Tamil primary schools in next year’s budget as well as under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.


He said that if there were such injustices, the Finance Minister would contact  the Education Minister.


The question now is to impress and convince the Finance Minister and Education Minister that it is a rank injustice not to build any new Chinese and Tamil primary schools in the 2007 Budget and the Ninth Malaysia Plan, when there is increasing demands for  enrolment for these schools.


There were 310,000 students in 1,333 Chinese primary schools when the nation achieved Independence in 1957, but about 50 years ago, the enrolment in Chinese primary schools have more than doubled to 636,124.  There should be a  doubling of the number of Chinese primary schools. Instead, there was a decrease of 45 schools  from 1,333 to 1,288 Chinese primary schools  in the past 50 years.


The question is whether the Finance Minister and Education Minister would agree to make the necessary amendments to the 2007 Budget before its finally passed on December 7, 2006 to ensure that Chinese and Tamil primary schools are not excluded in the new primary school building programme whether for next year or the next five years under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.


I call on the civil society throughout the country, associations, educational bodies or school boards, to come  forward to make their voices heard. After all, in a democratic society, the government must be prepared to hear and respect the wishes of the electorate.


DAP MP for Bukit Mertajam, Chong Eng, who is the DAP parliamentary spokesperson on education, will be the co-ordination for  this Parliamentary Roundtable and I hope that all political parties, in particular MPs and leaders from MCA, Gerakan, MIC and SUPP, will participate fully in the roundtable.


Anyone who is interested in participating in the Parliamentary Roundtable can also contact Chong Eng.


It is regrettable that during  his winding-up on Wednesday,  the Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Noh Omar had remained stubborn in opposing the proposal that the abolition  of  examination fees for the UPSR, PMR, SPM and STPM examinations should also  be extended to private school pupils, and not be limited to students in government or government-aided schools.


I urge the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who is also the  Finance Minister to give this matter due  consideration so that the proposal to extend the abolition of the examination fees to private students could be announced before the passage of the 2007 Budget by Parliament in early December.


It is most unfortunate that the various levels of the education system is losing out in quality, excellence and international  competitiveness in the international arena, and this is particularly obvious at the university level.


During his winding-up on Thursday, Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapha Mohamad admitted that his Ministry has yet to  adopt a “Quality First” and a “Race-Blind” policy and that no non-Malay was included the short-lists for the two recent Vice Chancellor appointments to the University of Malaya and University Kebangsaan Malaysia.


Up to now, non-Malay academicians can only get international  recognition and secure top university appointments including Vice Chancellor in  top-ranking  universities when they leave  the country and go overseas.


If Malaysia is to hold our place in the international arena in the face of challenges of globalization, the country cannot afford to continue with such short-sighted policies exporting our best brains and talents to other countries.


Unless and until meritocracy regardless of race  becomes the priority consideration for student-intake and academic appointments in  tertiary institutions of learning,  Malaysian universities will remain mediocre and will never break into the ranks on the internationally-recognised world  ranking universities – whether the assessment is done by the West or East.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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