Media Conference Statement (2) by Lim Kit Siang at Perak DAP Headquarters in Ipoh on Sunday, 28th June 2009:
Najib’s announcement of new category of PSD scholarship based on “pure merit” welcome though taken with a heavy pinch of salt after repeated disappointments with previous promises of “meritocracy”
The announcement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak of a new category of Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships next year based purely on ‘pure merit’, regardless of race, is welcome although it is taken with a heavy pinch of salt after repeated disappointments with previous promises of ‘meritocracy’ by the Barisan Nasional Government.
Firstly, some six years ago, Malaysians were promised a system of ‘meritocracy’ in the annual intake of university students but it proved to be a ‘fradulent’ meritocracy, as there continues to be two incomparable university entrance examinations, the world-class two-year course STPM and the inferior one-year matriculation course.
If Barisan Nasional government is serious about wanting to stop the sharp drop in standards of Malaysian public universities – best illustrated by the best Malaysian universities falling out of the league of the world’s Top 200 universities - and transform Malaysian universities into world-class institutions, the best lecturers and students must be recruited regarded of race or religion.
The first step is to do away with the ‘fraudulent meritocracy’ for university student intake by having one common university entrance examination – whether STPM or matriculation – coupled with a programme of positive affirmation to ensure that students from socio-economically backward sectors get special assistance to get universities places based on need and not race.
Secondly, Parliament and the nation were assured last year that in this year’s 2,000 PSD scholarships for foreign university studies, 20% or 400 places would be allocated solely on merit. This again has proved to be a hollow undertaking, explaining the repeat this year of SPM top-scorers with 11 to 16As denied scholarships as compared to those with lesser academic results.
Now Najib promises a new PSD scholarship based on ‘pure merit’ regardless of race. My response: Welcome, but to see it is to believe it!
Can Najib really ensure that from next year, ‘the best of the best and the creme de la creme will be studying in Malaysian public universities, rather than as at present going abroad universities resulting in serious national brain drain or in private universities?
Skepticism that this new PSD scholarship based on ‘pure merit’ will end up less than ‘pure’ is understandable because of the absence of a genuine 1Malaysia mindset in the higher echelons of the political leadership and the bureaucracy to treat all Malaysians regardless of race as equal Malaysian citizens.
For instance, why is the government planning to limit the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia to 10 subjects for the candidates?
While I frown on students sitting for 18, 19 or 20 subjects, why should students be barred from sitting for say, 12, 13 or 14 SPM subjects?
The problem is not with SPM students taking 12, 13 or 14 subjects but because SPM results are used for the award of PSD scholarships. This problem can be resolved by making STPM or one common university entrance examination results as the basis for the award of PSD scholarships.
However, the real problem is whether Najib can convince Malaysians that his 1Malaysia is not just an empty slogan, good for a ‘dance and a song’ but a living and driving philosophy in all aspects of government policy.
How can Najib convince Malaysians about his seriousness about a 1Malaysia concept when he has not given up his push for ‘Malay unity government’ talks between Umno and Pas?
Is Najib prepared to give his blessing for the holding of ‘Chinese unity’, ‘Indian unity’, ‘Kadzandusunmurut unity’ and ‘Iban unity’ political talks in the country? If Najib is not prepared to publicly give his blessing for ‘Chinese unity’, ‘Indian unity’, ‘Kadazandusunmurut unity’, ‘Iban unity’ political talks, how can he reconcile 1Malaysia with the Umno-Pas ‘Malay unity government’ talks?
What is even more telling is that nobody in MCA, Gerakan, MIC, SUPP, PBS or the other Barisan Nasional component parties dare to ask for a clear decision whether in Cabinet or the BN Supreme Council whether such demands for Umno-Pas Malay unity government talks is completely inimical with 1Malaysia concept!
Umno Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin has attacked me for being a ‘borderline racist’ in criticising the call for Umno-Pas Malay unity government talks as going against the 1Malaysia concept.
I think Khairy wanted to call Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad a ‘borderline racist’ but dare not do so, and is using this way to hit out at the former Prime Minister. Mahathir repeated his opposition to any Umno-Pas Malay unity government talks at the Pandan Umno division motivational course yesterday.
Khairy’s allegation that I am a ‘borderline racist’ is most laughable coming from one who had been very good at playing the role of a rabid racist, as when he made an uncalled-for attack on the Indian community during a live telecast at the Umno General Assembly in November 2007 or his infamous outburst about the so-called marginalisation of the Malays in Penang.
But so long as Khairy can continue to play with impunity his role as a rabid racist, Najib’s 1Malaysia concept as a unifying force for all Malaysians regardless of race will remain suspect.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor