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All university lecturers, including VCs, Deputy VCs and Deans, should be sent to a compulsory course on  Ethnic Relations as they must also bear  responsibility for the racial polarization which had worsened in the public universities as compared to the sixties


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

, Tuesday) The debacle over the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Ethnic Relations guidebook and the ham-fisted mishandling by the Ministry of Higher Education, followed by the scandalous videoclip of the UPM  campus gangsterism involving student leaders have highlighted the lack of the spirit of  academic freedom, tolerance  and excellence as well as the grave problem of racial polarization in the public universities.


Professor Datuk Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, consultant of the team assigned to review the module of the compulsory university course on Ethnic Relations after the furore over the UPM Ethnic Relations guidebook, said the official syllabus for the course assigns no blame for past ethnic conflicts, whether  the 1969 May 13 race riots, the  2001 Kampung  Medan clashes and made no mention of the 1999 Suqiu electoral appeals.


What cannot be denied however is that ethnic relations in the public universities have worsened over the decades, despite the overriding objective of the New Economic Policy when it was launched in 1970 to achieve national unity – a sorry  state of affairs the academic staff in the public universities cannot disclaim responsibility.


All university lecturers, including Vice Chancellors, Deputy VCs and Deans, should be sent to a compulsory course on  Ethnic Relations as they must also bear  responsibility for the racial polarization which had worsened in the public universities as compared to the sixties.


The UPM Ethnic Relations guidebook by the two UPM lecturers Jayum Anak Jawan and Zaid Ahmad which had been withdrawn by the Cabinet after the DAP protest motion in Parliament, in fact provide useful insight as to why the environment and culture of the public universities over the decades had aggravated racial polarization rather than fostered ethnic relations among students and academicians.


Sin Chew Daily today reported the objection of the MCA Youth leader and Deputy Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Liow Tiong Lai, to the “assimilation” argument in the UPM  “Ethnic Relations” guidebook, but he gave  the false impression  that it was  one of the reasons for the withdrawal of the guidebook by the Cabinet.


In fact, Liow did not give the full quotation on “assimilation” in the first chapter of the UPM Ethnic Relations guidebook on “Konsep Asas Hubungan Ethnik” (p.3), which is as follows:


“Sehubungan dengan itu, dalam mewujudkan perpaduan yang berlandasan identity nasional, nampaknya masih berlaku percanggahan. Terdapat dua pilihan identiti nasional yang berlandasakan dua aliran pemikiran.


“Aliran pemikiran pertama berpandangan bahawa negara harus menerima hakikat bahawa kemajmukan masyarakat di negara ini perlu dipelihara. Perpaduan, mengikut aliran ini boleh dicapai walaupun dalam masyarakat yang majmuk.  Aliran pemikiran ini adlah berteraskan kepada konsep Malaysian Malaysia (Malaysia untuk orang Malaysia).

”Aliran pemikiran kedua pula berpandangan bahawa untuk mewujudkan masyarakat yang bersatu padu, maka diantara pelbagai ethnik ini perlu diasimilasikan supaya akhirnya dapat dibentuk satu identiti baru Malaysia – satu bangsa Malaysia yang mempunyai persamaan antara satu dengan lain. Ini dapat dicapai melalui proses sosialisasi seperti melalui sistem pendidikan yang sama, penggunaan bahasa yang sama, perkahwinan campur dan penghayatan ideology negara (Rukun Negara). Inilah yang diusahakan oleh pihak kerajaan pada hari ini. Apa yang ingin di pupuk ialah kesedaran nasioal dan bukannya kesedaran ethnik kerana sekiranya kesedaran ethnik masih menebal maka kesedaran nasional akan tetap tipis.


“Tegasnya, gagasan Malaysian Malaysia itu sudah ditolak dan ditinggalkan. Semua pihak menyedari tentang betapa nilai dan harga identity nasional. Usaha mewujudkan sebuah negara Malaysia yang bersatu padu masih lagi dijalankan dengan giatnya oleh pihak kerajaan dan rakyat Malaysia perlu memberikan sokongan yang jitu kepada usaha yang murni ini.”


The UPM Ethnic Relations guidebook asserts that the Barisan Nasional government’s nation-building policy is based on the assimilation policy, which appears to be the view of the majority of the academicians in the public universities and the basis for administration and governance in the public universities.


Is the Cabinet tomorrow prepared to clarify and repudiate this statement that the government’s nation-building policy is based on “assimilation” – which runs counter to Vision 2020 to achieve a Bangsa Malaysia?


The battle for a Malaysian nation-building policy based on integration and not assimilation had been one of the cornerstones of the DAP political struggle when we were formed 40 years ago in 1966, to establish that Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation and that the only viable and successful nation-building policy must be one based on integration and not on assimilation.

Many DAP leaders had to pay a heavy price in terms of loss of personal freedoms or being persecuted in courts for courageously  upholding the cause of integration, defending and upholding the rights of all races, languages, cultures and religions in a multi-racial Malaysia.

In 1995, the then Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad admitted that he was wrong in his earlier advocacy of assimilation and conversion to the integration process of nation-building.


This was bannered in a front-page headline in the Star on Sept. 11, 1995,  “ESCHEW ETHNICITY’, with a secondary headline of “PM: Be proud of being Malaysians”.


Speaking at a dialogue with the Malaysian Students Executive Council of the United Kingdom, Mahathir said “to realise the goal of Bangsa Malaysia, the people should start accepting each other as they are, regardless of race and religion.”


The Star reported:

“ Dr. Mahathir said certain quarters may condemn him for wanting to achieve Bangsa Malaysia and not struggling for the Malay cause as he did during his early years in politics.

“He said when he was fighting for the Malay cause per se, he was young and his thoughts were that of an inexperienced politician.

“Dr. Mahathir said, in future, there would be no nation in the world which would have a single ethnic group as its citizen.

“’People have a high degree of mobility and no nation will have the purity of a singular race with the exception of probably Japan and Korea.”

“Dr. Mahathir said while a citizen of a nation may associate himself with the country, he would not be readily prepared to give up his culture, religion, or language.

“’Previously, we tried to have a single entity but it caused a lot of tension and suspicions among the people because they thought the Government was trying to create a hybrid.

“’There was fear among the people that they may have to give up their own cultures, values and religions. This could not work, and we believe that the Bangsa Malaysia is the answer,’ he added.”

On 7th August 1996, in an interview with the then  Editor-in-Chief of with the Utusan Melayu Group, Johan Jaafar, on race relations in Malaysia, Dr. Mahathir said:

“PM: Zaman berubah. Kalau dahulu tumpuan ialah kita kepada asimilasi. Di mana-mana negara juga tidak ada lagi usaha untuk ‘asimilasi’, bahkan di Amerika Syarikat mereka sering bercakap berkenaan dengan ‘roots’ asal-usul mereka. Jadi kalau kita sudah terima bahawa itu tidak mungkin, kita perlu cari jalan lain untuk merapatkan perhubungan antara kaum ini. Seperti kata De Bono, Lateral Thinking, kalau kita tidak boleh merentas satu jalan maka kita pergi ke jalan lain untuk sampai ke matlamat yang sama.”

Parliament was told earlier this month that the views of the first three Prime Ministers Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn that Malaysia was conceived as a secular state with Islam as an official religion but not an Islamic state was their  “personal opinion”.

Will Parliament and nation also be similarly told that the view that the UMNO and  Barisan Nasional government had abandoned assimilation as the basis for Malaysian nation-building was the personal view of Mahathir in 1995 and does not represent official UMNO and Barisan Nasional government policy?

This is why the Cabinet tomorrow should make it beyond any shadow of doubt that assimilation has been abandoned as the basis for nation-building policy – and for all university lecturers, from VCs, DVCs and Deans downwards to be fully briefed about this important change in nation-building so as  to address the problem of worsening racial polarization in the public universities.


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

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