Updated 6:52pm, 2 Dec 2008
KUALA LUMPUR, 2 Dec 2008: Umno Youth chief aspirant Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir continues to draw flak for suggesting that vernacular schools are the cause of racial polarisation.
Datuk Mukhriz MahathirMCA Youth chief Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong said a common language alone did not determine national unity, and described Mukhriz as being “simple-minded”.
Two members of parliament (MP), Charles Santiago of Klang and Nurul Izzah Anwar of Lembah Pantai, both said Mukhriz was clearly trying to win favour for his bid in the March Umno elections.
“MCA Youth will never agree to Mukhriz’s statement that our polarised society is due to the existence of different types of education in the country. Language alone cannot be deemed as a main factor for national unity.
“Naitonal unity should also entail mutual understanding, sincerity and respect among all the races,” Wee, who is also the Deputy Education Minister, said in a statement today.
He noted that not only Chinese, but pupils of other races also attended Chinese primary schools.
He also disagreed with Mukhriz’s proposal yesterday to convert vernacular schools into a single system, noting that other countries were promoting an inclusive society by granting equal rights to citizens from minority groups to maintain their own vernacular education.
“Any suggestion of racial assimilation is obsolete and will be forsaken by the people,” Wee said.
MCA president Datuk Ong Tee Keat in his blog yesterday said the Jerlun MP was using racial polemics because he was contesting in the Umno elections in March.
Kedah Gerakan Youth has also described the proposal to abolish vernacular schools as unconstitutional, and has instead called for the government to allow mother-tongue language classes in national schools.
DAP’s Santiago said Mukhriz showed “a total lack of sensitivity to the non-Malays in Malaysia.”
“It’s nonsensical. Vernacular schools do not prevent racial unity in the country. In fact, it is race-based policies in civil service employment, awarding of contracts and discrimination against minority communities and marginalisation of the poor that hampers national unity,” Santiago said in a statement.
Noting that there were some 50,000 Malay students currently enrolled in vernacular schools, Santiago said Mukhriz’s statement was aimed at securing support in his bid for the Umno Youth top post.
“Mukhriz should be deeply ashamed for politicising mother-tongue education to further his career in ruling Umno. He must immediately retract his statement and instead encourage the government to provide the necessary funds to vernacular schools to upgrade its existing infrastructure and build new facilities.”
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s Nurul Izzah also joined in the fray by accusing Mukhriz of fanning the flames of racial prejudice.
“He is suggesting that these schools be closed down as a reaction to the comments of other Barisan Nasional leaders on ‘ketuanan Melayu’,” she said.
PKR believed in strengthening the national school system while preserving the vernacular schools’ tradition to promote different cultures and the right for pupils to learn their mother tongue.
“Mukhriz’s proposal to have a single education system is clearly meant to promote himself as a Malay hero for his party elections in March. If he really was a Malay hero, he should oppose the teaching of science and mathematics in English which has caused the performance of rural and poor Malays to decline,” Nurul Izzah said, reiterating her party’s stand against the programme implemented by Mukhriz’ father, then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed.
She said that Mukhriz as an youth leader, was no open minded in his views but was instead following older politicians who used racial polemics.