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Grave defect of revised
“ethnic relations” module – no proper public feedback and consultation as
the draft was also withheld from Parliamentary Select Committee on National
(Parliament, Thursday) : It is difficult to comment on the revised “ethnic relations” module for public universities announced by the Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamed as it has not been made public.
I had in July last year criticized the Universiti Pertanian Malaysia (UPM) Ethnic Relations guidebook by two UPM lecturers, Jayum Anak Jawan and Zaid Ahmad, as “tendentious, divisive and mischievous” for its “total failure in their purported purpose to foster ethnic relations, further aggravating racial polarization not only in the university campuses but in the larger Malaysian society with the biased and divisive slant of the country’s history in seeking to pass off ‘historic lies’ as ‘historic facts’ – whether on the May 13 Incident in 1969, the Kampung Medan riots in 2001 or the Suqiu electoral appeals controversy 1999-2000”.
What was unthinkable was that Mustapha as the Higher Education Minister could stand up in Parliament in a parliamentary debate on the issue initiated by DAP MP for Bandar Kuching Chong Chien Jen to defend the indefensible by claiming that the “historic lies” in the guidebook were “historic facts” – until the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had to step in “to save the day” by withdrawing the guidebook and directing a review of the module.
Now, Mustapha has confirmed that the DAP and all critics of the UPM Ethnic Relations guidebook were right when he admitted yesterday that “the earlier drafts were lopsided and contained sensitive views, especially on the Chinese”.
He added: “We have taken into account the viewpoints of all races and religions in Malaysia and taken out all objectionable parts. I am confident that it will be well received by everyone.”
Mustapha’s claim that the “viewpoints of all races and religions in Malaysia” had been taken into account, and that “a rigorous consultation process” was conducted with various parties, including academics, corporate players and political parties, do not bear scrutiny.
In fact, it can be said without fear of contradiction that the grave defect of the 190-page revised “ethnic relations” module is that there had been no proper public feedback and consultation, with only a handful of individuals being involved in its preparation.
The DAP was never consulted and the draft was even withheld from the Parliamentary Select Committee on National Unity, although its Chairman and the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Maximus Ongkili said yesterday that the Select Committee had given its input for the revised module.
According to media reports, “all references to the Kampung Medan incident have been removed, parts of the May 13, 1969 race riots scaled down, factual errors deleted and elements in the original module that had caused controversy have been expunged”.
A judgment whether the revised module is a fair and proper representation of the subject of ethnic relations for university students will have to await until the 190-page guidebook is available to the public, but the following preliminary observations are in order:
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman