Third challenge to youths in Malaysia – to promote social media literacy among youths so that they could be informed citizens and critical thinkers to detect lies, half-truths and falsehoods

The Yang di Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah’s message on his official birthday celebration today has reinforced my challenge yesterday to Malaysian youths to prove to the world that Malaysia is a successful example of Alliance of Civilisations and not an example of failure from Clash of Civilisations.

In his message, the King has called on Malaysians to stand tall as a nation that transcends all differences to create lasting unity and togetherness.

His Majesty said to create such an atmosphere, the people and leaders at all levels should not just do nothing and yet dream of achieving success.

On the contrary concerted efforts should be taken to break down elements that would hinder the unity.

The King said: “The fact is that it is not an easy task to manage the divisions and differences that exist in a country. This is due to the fact that every single thing will tend to be viewed and interpreted from different angles.”

As such, ever since taking his oath as the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Jan 31, the Yang di Pertuan Agong has travelled to every corner of the country to stay close to all Malaysians regardless of differences.

In his message, the Yang di Pertuan Agong invited leaders from all walks of life to put aside their differences to serve the people in efforts to establish a harmonious and united society.

With the amendment of the Constitution lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 years, youths in Malaysia are reminded of Sukarno’s famous quote: “Give me 10 young men, I'll shake the world”.

All the national leaders of today had started young. The Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the PKR President, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng had started their political activism in their teens and Guan Eng became the President of the Monash University Malaysian Students Union (MUMSU) before he was 20 years old.

The Bersatu President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Amanah President, Mohamad Sabu, both started their political activism when they were 21.

I remember that in early 1955, when I was 14 and in Form One, I cycled from Batu Pahat to Malacca for an overnight expedition with two of my classmates, the subject which dominated our conversation during the trip was the seminal Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung, Indonesia which brought together for the first time Afro-Asian leaders like Sukarno of Indonesia, Zhou Enlai of China, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, U Nu of Burma and Gamal Abder Nasser of Egypt.

I started and edited the Form II, II and IV class magazines in High School, Batu Pahat when I was 15-17, became editor of school magazine, the Pilot, when I was 18 in Form V.

In 1962, at the age of 21, I became Secretary-General of the Singapore National Union of Journalists (SNUJ). In December 1965, when I was 24, against the advice of my family and friends, I took the plunge into full-time in politics to establish the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

In 1969, at the age of 28, I was elected Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, followed by my first detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) a week later. I first became Leader of Opposition in the Malaysian Parliament when I was 31 years old.

I refer to these episodes to illustrate that youths do have the ability and energy to “shake the world” if they apply themselves with dedication and commitment to improve the lot of their fellow-citizens, the nation and the world.

Yesterday, I had issued two challenges to Malaysian youths in the 16-25 age group – to prove to the world that Malaysia is a successful example of Alliance of Civilisations and not an example of failure from Clash of Civilisations as well as to spearhead a national campaign to clean up the Malaysia social media by combating fake news and hate speech which incited inter-racial and inter-religious suspicion, fear and hatred.

Today, I wish to issue a further challenge to the youths of Malaysia – to promote social media literacy particularly among youths so that they could become informed citizens and critical thinkers who could detect lies, half-truths and falsehoods.

We are in the age of Internet and social media, which are pervasive in everyone's lives.

Unfortunately, it has become increasingly difficult for everyone to appropriately address the digital challenges as the new media can present with ease lies, falsehoods, fake news and hate speech with explosive speed.

To acquire social media literacy, Malaysians must become engaged and informed citizens and need to become critical thinkers and active creators of content rather than passive consumers of online content and technology. They must be able to distinguish fact and truth from lies, half-truths and falsehoods on the Internet, in particular fake news and hate speech.

A good example is furnished by the Gerakan leaders, who accused me of “showing my true colours”, advocating the introduction of Jawi for Chinese and Tamil primary schools as well as accusing me of going back on my words on what I said about Jawi. (Sin Chew 9.9.19)

If there is social media literacy, a reader will check whether what the Gerakan leaders are saying are true or false - whether I had advocated the introduction of Jawi for Chinese and Tamil primary schools and whether I had gone back on what I said about Jawi in 1984.

Malaysians with social media literacy will find that the Gerakan leaders (as well as MCA leaders) are telling lies on both counts – that I have not advocated the introduction of Jawi for Chinese and Tamil primary schools and that I had not gone back on what I had said about Jawi in 1984.

Three weeks ago, I had expressed shock that after a month of controversy over Jawi in Chinese and Primary schools, 95% of Chinese and Indian Malaysians were still not aware that there was Jawi in Std. V Bahasa Malaysia textbook for many years and that the revised curriculum to introduce Jawi in Std. IV was decided by MCA, Gerakan, MIC, SUPP and UMNO Ministers in Sept. 2015.

It is this ignorance that the MCA and Gerakan leaders are trying to exploit while condemning the introduction of Jawi in Chinese and Tamil primary schools, although this decision was taken by their Ministers (UMNO, MCA, MIC and Gerakan) four years ago in 2015, to be implemented yearly in the revised textbooks from 2017 – 2022.

The Jawi subject controversy was a legacy of the former government, as the final decision on the new textbooks for Chinese/Tamil primary schools to introduce the Jawi subject for Std. 4 pupils in 2020 was made by Education Ministry Curriculum Committee chaired by the then Education Minister, Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid and attended by the then two Deputy Education Ministers, Datuk Chong Sin Woon (MCA) and P. Kamalanathan (MIC) in a meeting of Sept. 21, 2015.

After that it became an administrative matter for the relevant Education Ministry divisions to implement the policy decision of Sept. 2015.

If there had been no change of government in the 14th General Election on May 9, 2018, the implementation of the Education Ministry decision on new curriculum in Sept. 2015 would probably result in “Three Wants” in the new textbooks for Chinese/Tamil Std. 4 primary school pupils – Want to be compulsory, Want to have examination and Want students to learn to read and write Jawi.

Now, the “Three Wants” had become “Three Nos” — No Compulsion, No Examination and No learning/writing of Jawi but only introduction.

These are the facts and background information of the Jawi controversy which the Gerakan President as well as the MCA leadership are hiding from Malaysians.

How did I renege on what I said about Jawi in 1984?

My statement is easily available online, and if Gerakan and MCA leaders do not understand what I said in 1984, which had the heading “Education Ministry’s regulation that Jawi is a compulsory subject violates Article 152 of Malaysian Constitution”, I am prepared to give the Gerakan and MCA Presidents free tuition on how to understand simple statements.

It is no wonder that the Gerakan President Datuk Dr. Dominic Lau was trounced by an Independent novice and a law student, P. Prabakaran M. Parameswaran in the Batu parliamentary constituency in the last general election to become the country’s youngest Member of Parliament at the age of 22.

Do you want a free tuition on how to understand simple statements, Dr. Lau?

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri