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Hishammuddin the most polarised and divisive Education Minister in the nation’s history with his keris-wielding and threat to unshealth the keris again next year – resign as Education Minister or Umno Youth leader as he is the worst model for a Bangsa Malaysia



Speech when moving a RM10 salary-cut motion for the Education Minister, two Deputy Education Ministers and the Parliamentary Secretary during the 2007 Budget committee stage debate on the Education Ministry
by Lim Kit Siang  


(Dewan Rakyat, Monday) : Two months ago, I had served public notice that  there will be a RM10 salary-cut motion for the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein,  the two Deputy Education Ministers Datuk Hon Choon Kim and Datuk Noh Omar, and the Parliamentary Secretary Komala Devi if the grave injustice of not building new and adequate Chinese and Tamil primary schools in the 2007 Budget and the Ninth Malaysia Plan is not corrected when Parliament reconvenes in November to debate the Education Ministry estimates during the committee-stage in November.


I am now moving the unprecedented RM10 salary-cut motion against four front-benchers in one go  - the Education Minister, two Deputy Ministers and a Parliamentary Secretary – for their collective neglect and irresponsibility in failing to provide for the building of new Chinese and Tamil primary schools in the 2007 Budget and the Ninth Malaysia Plan to meet educational and increased enrolment needs, such as building 30 new Chinese primary schools and five new Tamil primary schools next year or 300 new Chinese primary schools and 30 new Tamil primary schools under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.


It is the unstated policy of the Education Ministry not to build new Chinese and Tamil primary schools under the five-year plans to meet the enrolment and educational needs of school children whose parents want them to be in these schools – the only exception is when the issue is used to fish for votes during general elections  with the promises of a handful of new Chinese primary schools.


But for the past few decades, no Minister or Deputy Education Minister would say  it publicly -  until 20th September 2006, when the DAP MP for Ipoh Barat, M. Kula Segaran, achieved the feat of forcing the Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Noh Omar to openly admit in Parliament  that no new Chinese or Tamil primary schools would be built next year or for the next five years  under the Ninth Malaysia Plan during the winding-up of the policy debate on the 2007 Budget.


Although the subsequent national furore over Noh Omar’s admission resulted in the announcement by Hishammuddin for the building of two new Chinese primary schools, it was a real let down for three reasons: 


  • Of the two so-called new Chinese primary schools announced by Hishammuddin, one, SJKC Kulai (2), is a relocated school which was promised before 1999 general election, while  the other, SJKC Tun Tan Siew Sin is a Wawasan School.


  • Not a single new Tamil primary schools; and


  • What is urgently needed to amend the 2007 Budget to build  30 new Chinese primary schools and five new Tamil primary schools next year or 300 new Chinese primary schools and 30 new Tamil primary schools under the Ninth Malaysia Plan 2006-2010.


During Independence in 1957, there were 1,333 Chinese primary schools with a total enrolment of 310,000 students. Nearly 50 years later today, Chinese primary school enrolment has more than doubled to 636,124, which should have been accompanied by the 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 half-century.


There is now the phenomenon of many new national primary schools with empty classrooms  and surplus desks/chairs while Chinese primary schools in highly-populated  areas are crammed with student-per-class ratio more than  double the Education Ministry’s ideal ratio of 25 pupils per class  -  having 55 pupils or more per class, which would have justified  more classes and new schools to be built.


The Bercham SJKC, the biggest Chinese primary school in Ipoh, has 3,284 pupils in 72 classes  in  two sessions, with more than 15 classes exceeding 50 students each – when there should be at least  four schools based on the Education Ministry ideal of 25 pupils per class and 30 classes per school.


Last month, I had challenged the MIC President and Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu to substantiate his claim that 21 new Tamil primary schools were   built under the Eighth Malaysia Plan.


I knew  Samy Vellu was wrong as the number of Tamil primary schools had been reduced from 526 in 2001 to 523 in 2006 despite a 12.7% increase in the enrolment in Tamil primary schools during the period from 88,810 in 2001 to 100,142 in 2006.


Samy Vellu subsequently became more careful, saying that  37 Tamil schools comprising 18 partially-aided and 21 fully-aided were “rebuilt” under the Eighth Malaysia Plan, while another 38 Tamil primary schools – 20 fully-aided and 18-partially aided – would be “rebuilt” under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.


Samy Vellu said the 38 Tamil schools to be rebuilt at an estimated cost of RM49 million under the Ninth Malaysia Plan were selected as they required immediate repairs as some of them were in a deplorable condition.


I do not know how Samy Vellu, with his long history of 27 years as MIC President and Cabinet Minister,  could make such a basic but colossal mistake between new Tamil primary schools – of which there was none whether under the Eighth or Ninth Malaysia Plan – and “rebuilding” Tamil primary schools in a deplorable condition.


However, I am still waiting for answer whether from him or the Education Minister on  two matters, viz:


  • why there is no provision for building new Tamil primary schools under the Ninth Malaysia Plan when there is an increase in student enrolment; and
  • the reason for the shortfall of RM36.72 million in the original 9MP allocation for rebuilding  fully-aided Tamil primary schools as announced by Samy Vellu last month when there was an earlier announcement by the Education Minister of RM64.84 million  for this purpose.


As the Education Ministry’s budget next year is RM22.2 billion, it is completely unacceptable that there is no provision for building an adequate number of new Chinese and Tamil primary schools.


Are there any  MPs from the MCA, Gerakan, MIC and other component parties in Barisan Nasional who are principled enough  to stand up in Parliament to speak what they have so far dared only  to whisper privately – that the present education policy in refusing to build new Chinese and Tamil primary schools in accordance with enrolment needs is unfair and unjust, and  must be scrapped immediately.


Is there no money to build 30 new Chinese primary schools and five new Tamil primary schools next year or  300 new Chinese primary schools and 30 new Tamil primary schools under the Ninth Malaysia Plan? 


Clearly the problem is not money but politics.


Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said after the Barisan Nasional Youth national committee meeting on October 3, 2006  that he had no way of saying in a concrete manner how many Chinese and Tamil primary schools would be built under the Ninth Malaysia Plan as this depends on the decision taken after  “high-level” discussions.  (Sin Chew Daily)


Hishammuddin had unwittingly highlighted the root cause of the long-standing  problem of the Barisan Nasional neglect, discrimination and marginalization of Chinese and Tamil primary schools – the politicization  of mother-tongue education in the country.


Why must issues pertaining to Chinese and Tamil primary schools, including the building of new schools, be treated as  “hot political potatoes”  which must be dealt with at the highest leadership level of the Barisan Nasional, involving the Education Minister who is Umno Youth leader with MCA President, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, MIC President Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and Gerakan President Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik?


Why can’t the whole education issue be depoliticized so that such questions are treated as pure and simple education issues to be handled professionally and objectively at the administrative level by education officials, without having to involve the Education Minister?


Cabinet Ministers should set the policy  that new primary schools, whether national, Chinese or Tamil, should be built to meet increased enrolment needs which should be implemented by the Education Ministry officials, instead of the present situation where Ministers who are leaders of non-Umno Barisan Nasional parties have to negotiate and even beg the Education Minister for his “benevolence” to approve the  building of new Chinese and Tamil primary schools.


The issue of building new Chinese and Tamil primary schools must not continue to be treated as a “political football” by  Barisan Nasional  leaders as  it must be  handled professionally as an education issue based strictly on enrolment needs of pupils and not on political and electioneering needs of BN parties.


If there is increased demand for Chinese and Tamil primary schools, then build new Chinese and Tamil primary schools to cater to the rising student enrolment for these schools. This should the sole criterion  as to whether new Chinese and Tamil primary schools should be built, and not as of now, where the primary consideration is whether it would politically benefit the BN component parties especially their electioneering needs.


The stock answer DAP MPs get in Parliament  whether from the Education Minister or even the Prime Minister when we ask about the building of new Chinese and Tamil primary schools is that they would be built according to need.


DAP MPs in Parliament  will henceforth  reject such meaningless answers as what we want to make clear to the Barisan Nasional government that while we agree that  new Chinese and Tamil primary schools should be built according to need –  but it must be the educational and increased enrolment needs of pupils  for these schools and not the political or electioneering needs of the Barisan Nasional parties as is now the BN philosophy.


Hishammuddin had said that the building of Chinese and Tamil primary schools is a complex question depending on the resolution of many issues – like land, financial  allocation,  whether schools with few students should be closed, merged or relocated.


After nearly half-a-century of nationhood, Chinese and Tamil primary schools should be treated equally as national primary schools.   Why should the building of new Chinese and Tamil primary schools be dependent on the  resolution of a cluster of complex problems unrelated to the problem of increased enrolment needs of pupils for these schools in a particular locality, when the building of new  national primary schools never had to face these problems?


As Education Minister, Hishammuddin should focus all his energies to check the rot in the failing national education system to ensure that we provide a quality primary and secondary education which is comparable to the best in the world to prepare the new generation of Malaysians with the mindset, skills and talents  to face an increasingly  competitive future in the global economy.


It is a real indictment of  the 49-national education system that on the eve of the 50th National Day celebrations,  there are 794 schools without  power and 1,555 schools without water supply.


These are the issues Hishammuddin  must take on board as his topmost priority instead of playing God to decide whether  to approve one or two new Chinese  or Tamil primary schools under the Ninth Malaysia Plan and where.


Or is the problem one of lack of funds?


How much will it cost to build 30 new Chinese primary schools and five new Tamil primary schools each year under the Ninth Malaysia Plan? RM50 million? RM75 million? Or RM100 million?


Are the government coffers really dry and have no funds to rectify the historic wrongs and injustices in the past four decades to build new Chinese and Tamil primary schools to meet educational and increased enrolment needs?


This cannot be. Only two weeks ago, at the pre-Umno general assembly briefing, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced a RM600 million bonanza to the Umno delegates and divisions at RM3 million per parliamentary constituency to be managed by the Umno division leaders to buy their support and loyalty – an instant addition to an earlier RM1.5 billion allocation approved for small projects under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, without getting any parliamentary sanction whatsoever.


On the very same day, i.e. in a letter to the Ketua Pengarah Kerja Raya dated 13th November, 2006, the Deputy Works Minister Datuk Mohd Zin Mohamed using official letterhead of the Deputy Works Minister, directed the Public Works Department Director-General under the heading “Perlaksanaan Projek Kecil Kawasan Parlimen di Semenanjung Malaysia dan Sabah” as follows:

“Dengan segala hormatnya saya ingin menarik perhatian YBhg. Dato' di atas pengumuman YAB Perdana Menteri pada 13 November 2006 di Putra World Trade Centre.

“2. Untuk makluman YBhg. Dato', YAB Perdana Menteri telah mengumumkan pelaksanaan projek-projek kecil di Semenanjung dan Sabah dengan nilai keseluruhan RM600 juta (Ringgit
Malaysia Enam Ratus juta). Pecahan kecil untuk setiap kawasan Parlimen adalah sebanyak RM3 juta (Ringgit Malaysia Tiga juta) dan projek ini perlu dilaksanakan dalam tempoh 2 bulan.

“3. Sehubungan itu, saya memohon kerjasama YBhg. Dato' untuk mengambil tindakan proaktif bagi melaksanakan arahan YAB. Perdana Menteri melalui JKR Daerah dengan mengarahkan seluruh Jurutera Daerah mengadakan perbincangan dengan pemimpin tempatan bagi penentuan kerja dan lain-lain.

“4. Segala kerjasama dan tindakan segera YBhg. Dato' atas perkara ini diucapkan ribuan terima kasih.


“Yang ikhlas,

“(signed by: DATO' Ir. MOHD ZIN MOHAMED)


“1. YAB. Dato' Seri Abdullah Hj Ahmad Badawi
Perdana Menteri Malaysia

“2. YB. Dato' Seri Samy Vellu
Menteri Kerja Raya

“3. YB. Senator Tan Sri Dato' Nor Mohamed bin Yakcop
Menteri Kewangan II”


Subsequently, the Contract & Quantity Survey Unit at Jabatan Kerja Raya issued  its "Kertas Konsep Tatacara Pelaksanaan Program Projek Luar Bandar Tahun 2006”  to all Umno divisions in the country, i.e. Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, on how to spend the bonanza and requiring the RM600 million or RM3 million per parliamentary constituency  to be spent by each Umno division by this year – which means in less than six weeks at the maximum or in a matter of a few weeks in most cases. 


The message to the Umno division leaders is: Just spend the RM600 million in the next few weeks by Dec. 31, 2006, Never Mind What, Why and How Can!


With the government prepared to throw away RM600 million in a “spend, spend, spend spree” just to buy the support of the 200 Umno divisions, how can the Education Minister give the excuse that there are inadequate funds to rectify historic injustices by building new and adequate Chinese and Tamil primary schools to meet educational and increased enrolment needs.


This brings me to the second reason for this censure motion.


The Institute Integrity of Malaysia and the Anti-Corruption Agency have proposed that anti-corruption should become part of the school syllabus. But what is the use of this suggestion if the Education Minister, the two Deputy Education Minsiters and Parliamentary Secretary failed  to set a model in the campaign to uphold integrity and eradicate corruption and abuses of power – not just in the case of the scandalous misuse of RM600 million of public funds for disbursement by Umno division heads in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah without parliamentary approval, the latest and worst case of money politics and political corruption involving the Prime Minister himself, but cases falling directly under the Education Ministry.


The most glaring case is the scandal of RM30,000  Kung Yu Chinese primary school’s repair contract producing only RM3,000 value of work – which the Deputy Higher Education Minister, Datuk Ong Tee Kiat had a hand in help exposing it.


What Ong exposed – the 90% “leakage’ of minor education development allocations -  is only the tip of the iceberg. Up to now, nothing has been done to check such leakages, abuse of funds and breach of trust in the RM10 million allocation for 114 Chinese primary schools, 71 Tamil schools and 25 primary schools approved last October after the tragic and totally unnecessary death of SJKC Keat Hwa (near Alor Star) teacher, Chan Boon Heng, 42, who died of internal injuries after falling through rotting termite-infested floorboards last September.


Instead of thanking Ong and encouraging more such exposes in the public interest, Hishamuddin went on a rampage against Ong as if he is a traitor to the government and nation, raising questions about the commitment of the Education Minister in the fight against corruption, whose father, Tun Hussein Onn, the third Prime Minister is identified with  uncompromising aversion to corruption and all forms of abuses of power.


Only just now, I was  told of how a RM100,000 allocation to build a Tadika which only resulted in a RM12,000 construction – another case of 90% “leakage” of development allocations -  and this happened in the  Kota Damansara constituency of the Selangor State Exco and State Assemblyman, Datuk Mokhtar Dahlan.


Hishammuddin still owed Ong and the nation an apology for attacking the former MCA Youth leader as a political  opportunist and ingrate, repeating his warning at the recent Umno Youth general assembly that he would never forget or  forgive Ong.


The third reason is the failure of the  education system  to build a more united Malaysian generation.


After the recent Umno and Umno Youth general assemblies, Malaysians have never been more disunited and polarized.

This is the period in the nation’s history when Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or territory, whether Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazandusunmurut, Iban, Orang Asli, whether Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah or Sarawak, should never feel so good as Malaysians, never more united, motivated and confident about the future to transform Malaysia into a highly competitive, modern information society and knowledge-based economy to join the ranks of the first-world developed nations.


This is because in nine months’ time, we will be commemorating our half-century of independent nationhood, which is the golden opportunity for all Malaysians to celebrate and reaffirm their unity, solidarity, diversity, common nationality and single-minded sense of purpose to stamp Malaysia on the world map as a nation of quality, excellence, distinction and tolerance.


Are Malaysians now in such a position, looking excitedly to the 50th Merdeka celebrations in nine months’ time – with celebrations probably beginning when the new year of 2007 is ushered in five weeks’ time?


It is no exaggeration to say that to the majority of Malaysians have never felt so bad and gloomy as Malaysians because of the recent spate of negative, retrogressive and divisive developments which raised the serious question whether the country has made concrete and irreversible progress in the past half-a-century to become a united, progressive and modern nation which could take its place among the first-world nations.


The Prime Minister, Cabinet and government must be forewarned that a new exodus of emigration of Malaysian professionals, both Malay and non-Malay, may be triggered by the rise of racial extremism and religious intolerance as exemplified by these negative, retrogressive and divisive developments, in particular the “fire and brimstone” Umno assemblies with keris-wielding and May 13 threats of bloodshed, amok and riots, causing irreparable damage to Malaysia’s global competitiveness.


The failure of the national education policy can be testified by the interview by the Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah, who said that he  had a friend whose child had been told by his teachers not to visit the homes of the non-Malays.


As Raja Nazrain said, schools must bear a major problem of the worsening polarization in the country. He said: “More needs to be done. Schools need to be inclusive rather than exclusive.


“Students should not be made to feel isolated or segregated by race or belief. Instead there should be integration and a spirit of belonging.


“There should be a more balanced racial composition of school leaders, teachers and students that reflect national mix.”


As stated in one reaction to Raja Nazrain’s interview today, “the ultimate antidote to cure polarization and disunity was to completely overhaul the country’s education system by making it more dynamic”.


Professor Emeritus Datuk Khoo Kay Kim rightly warned that if Malaysia’s education system is not overhauled, the country would lag behind in 10 years’ time compared with neighbouring countries like Thailand and Indonesia.


Unfortunately, we have in Hishammuddin the most divisive and polarized Education Minister in the nation’s history with his keris-wielding and threat to unshealth the  keris again next year – the worst example for a model of a Bangsa Malaysia completely insensitive to the heightened racial polarization caused by racist, extremist, incendiary and seditious Umno  and Umno Youth assembly speeches  triggering a new brain drain and scaring away investors.


How can the national education system promote greater national unity among the young generation of Malaysians when the Education Minister has emerged as the most polarized and divisive Minister in the current Cabinet as well as in the nation’s history. Hishamuddin should choose one or the other – resign as Education Minister or Umno Youth leader as it is clear that he cannot do a good job of both, particularly if he is set on his annual keris-wielding at the annual  Umno Youth and Umno general assemblies.  



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

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