Chinese schools in Malaysia
Harold F. Schiffman
haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Fri Mar 18 14:33:56 UTC 2005
The Chinese schools sandiwara re-run
Wong Bak Man
Mar 17, 05 3:17pm
It seems to me that the latest controversy on MCAs public proposal to
build more Chinese- language primary schools and the noisy rejection of it
by Umno is but just another coordinated strategy between the two parties -
assisted by the Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia as well as the MCA-owned
Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press.
The issue itself is not new. Before every general or by-election since
1955, the Barisan Nasional (formerly the Alliance) has publicly promised
Chinese voters that if they are returned to power, more Chinese - and for
that matter, more Tamil - primary schools would be built. Two questions
arise from this understanding.
First, if building more Chinese and Tamil schools have been an electoral
promise of BN, why does the MCA find it necessary to go to the media to
publicly demand for the fulfilment of this electoral promise?
Cant MCA just work quietly behind the scenes to implement the electoral
promise? If Umno truly believes Chinese primary schools are bad for
national unity or national integration, then why did it promise to build
more such schools before every general election?
It seems to me that MCA has decided to play to the gallery to serve its
own selfish agenda. The first is, of course, to show to the Chinese
Malaysian community that it is a more daring and heroic in championing
Chinese education than Gerakan - its fellow component party in BN - or the
opposition DAP or the Chinese leadership of Keadilan.
The second reason has to do with the forthcoming MCA party elections.
Being perceived as feeble in policy-making, incumbent president Ong Ka
Ting has to re-package himself and his Team A faction to be more vocal and
sincere than potential challengers like Chua Jui Meng, Ong Tee Keat, Chan
Kong Choy and those in Team B.
These partisan and self-interested considerations coincide with the
political aspirations of younger Umno leaders such as Hishammuddin Hussein
and Khairy Jamaluddin et al in portraying themselves to be defenders of
the national language policy, Malay dignity and what not.
Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia also finds it convenient to exploit this
sandiwara to attempt to boost its credibility and legitimacy as a platform
for Umnos Malay ethno-nationalism.
This sort of sandiwara, however, is not novel.
In the past, Umnos radicals were playacted by the younger Najib Razak who
has now become a moderate voice because he has almost reached the top.
After Hishammuddin or Khairy have achieved power in the future, they will
also re-package themselves as moderates, leaving the role of radicals to
another younger generation of aspiring Umno Youth members and leaders.
On the MCA side, once party elections are over, the winners will call Umno
leaders abang once again. Come another general election, BN will again
promise to build more Chinese primary schools. The sandiwara goes on and
on ad infinitum.
In other words, the essential script of this on-and-off again sandiwara is
that the Chinese school issue is merely a tool for ambitious or desperate
politicians in Umno and MCA, as well as for the media they own to project
their images as single-race champions.
If Umno and MCA are unhappy with each other, why not break up the alliance
for good? Why cohabit without common or shared vision for Malaysias
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