Friday, June 20, 2008

FARISH NOOR on "Of Rajas, Dewarajas, Maharajas & Kerajaan"

"Four Thousand Years of Feudal Politics from Majapahit to Malaysia today."

Hosted by:
The Annexe, Central Market
Education - Lecture
The Annexe Gallery, Central Market Annexe
Sunday, June 29 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Vernacular Education System and the Left (Part 1)

Lee Ban Chen Sep 14, 05 5:51pm

"...That is why Russian Marxists say that there must be no compulsory official language, that the population must be provided with schools where teaching will be carried on in all the local languages, that a fundamental law must be introduced in the constitution declaring invalid all privileges of any one nation and all violations of the rights of national minorities...".
Is a compulsory official language needed? By Lenin


One fundamental and yet unresolved agenda of the left is language. Beyond being a tool of communication languages had developed to become icons of identity and culture. This paper addresses on language as the unresolved national question and attempts to explain a case for vernacular languages.

Kamus Dewan defines vernacular as "relating to or a language or dialect commonly spoken by the members of a particular group or a community in a society. (yang berkaitan dengan atau yang menggunakan bahasa atau dialek yang dipertuturkan oleh sesuatu golongan atau kaum dalam masyarakat)

Oxford Fajar Advanced Learner's English-Malay Dictionary defines vernacular as: "language or dialect spoken in a particular country or region, as compared with a formal or written language. (bahasa atau dialek yang dituturkan di negara atau kawasan tertentu berbanding dengan bahasa yang formal atau bahasa bertulis).

The term vernacular therefore refers to a non-formal language (commonly spoken) used by a particular group or a community in a society. During the British occupation, the language system (involving language, school and education system) for the Malays, Chinese, Indians and other minorities were considered to be vernacular whereas the formal language was English. After independence, Bahasa Melayu became the national and official language of the country forming the official language system. The language system (involving language, school and education system) of the Chinese, Indians and other minorities became vernacular.

A simple analogy from the above is that language system is function of power. The one in control of power imposes the choice of his language over the others. Therefore whether a language is treated as formal or vernacular is dependant on the choice of dominant power ruling the country.

During the British occupation, the anti-colonialist left-movement had no problem in supporting the vernacular language/school/education. The multiracial left stood against the English language system alleging it to be discriminatory and oppressive against other languages. Similarly, during the Japanese occupation, the use of Japanese language system (involving language, school and education system) was opposed by the Left, based on the same reasoning.

The Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) issued a Nine Point anti-Japanese Manifesto in 1943. Item 6 of the manifesto stated that the development of a national culture should be through a multilingual system of free education. (p.77, alias Chin Peng: My Side of History, Chinese version) The CPM announced an Eight Point Programme in August 15, 1945. Item 6 of this programme stated that a democratic education system must be placed in lieu of the existing system and the development of national culture shall encompass multi languages. (p.105, alias Chin Peng: My Side of History, Chinese version)

The left view, on the equality of the languages and culture as contained in their Anti-Japanese Nine Point Manifesto in 1943 and the Eight Point Programme in 1945, was surprisingly dropped.

In 1947, through the combine effort of two progressive forces comprising Malay nationalist group Pusat Tenaga Rakyat (Putera) and the All-Malayan Council of Joint Action (AMCJA) a document called The People's Constitutional Proposals for Malaya was formulated. In this document the earlier left views on equality of languages and culture were compromised and replaced with the Malay nationalist views advocated by Putera. Thereafter, the post independent Malaya saw the replacement of the Malay language as the national and official language replacing English. The Chinese, Tamil and other languages of the minorities took a back stage.

The Alliance and Barisan Nasional governments claiming to be racially representing the races did not promote the growth of other languages. In fact the Chinese, Tamil and other minority languages faced official discrimination hampering its development in the post-independent Malaysia. Arguably the left movements can be said to have failed in its role to reach a consensus on this sensitive and controversial issue of language. Perhaps it is time for the left movements to review its position and make a firm stand through democratic debates and discussions with relevant groups. The ensuing perspective is an outline for an open discussion on this issue.

People's constitution and Malay nationalism

The People's Constitutional Proposals for Malaya was drafted jointly by Putera and AMCJA. The AMCJA was formed in Dec 22, 1946. It then had about 400,000 members representing political parties, workers unions, women organisations and youth groups from all races and all classes. Its formation was based on six principles.

1. Consolidate Singapore with Malaya
2. Election of a central government and state councils
3. Malay rulers shall have vested power and responsibility to the people through the Council Meetings.
4. A new constitution for Malaya with special provisions for the development of Malays in politics and economy.
5. Malay traditions and Islam fully protected by Malays through a special council.
6. Citizenship for all who adopts Malaya as the land of permanent residence and declares undivided loyalty.

On the other side, Putera, which was formed on Feb 22, 1947, was made up of about 150,000 members. Its membership was represented by Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya (PKMM), Angkatan Pemuda Insaf (API), Kesatuan Tani, Angkatan Wanita Sedar (Awas) and some 80 other smaller organisations. It had 10 principles, in addition to the six form the above and the following four were added.

- Bahasa Melayu shall be made the national language.
- Defence and the state affairs shall be the joint responsibility of the government of Malaysia and the British government. -
The citizens of Malaya shall be named as Malays.
- The national flag for Malaya shall have red and white colours as the background.

Undeniably the four principles of Putera represented Malay nationalism. With an open mind AMCJA compromised and accepted these, which had the support of the CPM, the influential partner of both teams.

The attack on the vernacular system

Often it is stated that the vernacular system is a ‘divide and rule' policy of the British. Not denying the British intent to divide and rule, one report of the British on education in 1951, i.e. Barnes Report failed to affirm that it had such intention with regard to vernacular education
"… Chinese and Indians are being asked to give up gradually their own vernacular schools, and to send their children … to schools where Malay is the only oriental language taught…"

There were objections raised by the Chinese and Indians. This prompted the tabling of the Fenn-Wu Report in the same year. It defended the vernacular system: "… any restrictive imposition of a language or two languages upon the people of Malaya would not provide a healthy atmosphere for community understanding and national unity".

Somehow this put a stop to any effort to implement the proposal contained in the Barnes Report.

The minister of education of the Alliance government, Abdul Razak headed a committee and formulated the education policy for the soon to be free country. The Razak Report 1956 stated: ".. the ultimate objective of educational policy in this country must be to bring the children of all races under a national education system in which the national language is the main medium of interaction."

The ‘ultimate objective' policy faced tremendous opposition from Chinese educationalist movements, in particular the Dong Jiao Zong. The policy intended to close down Chinese and Tamil schools was temporarily disbanded. The lesser controversial Education Ordinance 1957 was well received by all races. But, it was not too long before the controversy erupted in the form of the Rahman Talib Report in 1960.

The ‘ultimate objective' tune was replayed again and this time it was to close down secondary schools which used mother tongue languages. The reason given was to promote national unity. The mono-language and monoculture policies became very evident in the Alliance government when the Education Act 1961 was introduced. The Act gave vested power to the minister to convert mother-tongue based secondary schools to national secondary schools and to convert in suitable time any SJKC or SJKM to national schools. The ‘ultimate objective' policy continued its existence in the Education Act 1996. The Act exempted the application of the policy to schools existing prior to 1996 or that established under the direction of the minister.

In addition to that, the 1971 National Cultural Policy was based on a mono-cultural concept of assimilation. For example, it states:
a. National culture must be based on the Malay culture
b. Suitable elements of other cultures may be incorporated
c. Islam shall be an important component in the National culture Principle of equality of races

"….Whoever does not recognise and champion the equality of nations and languages, and does not fight against all national oppression or inequality, is not a Marxist; he is not even a democrat. That is beyond doubt…" In theory, this statement of Lenin on equality of nations and languages i.e. races is readily acceptable in any rational and fair debate. But reality in a multicultural society is different.

A ruling race seldom accommodates the interests of other races for equality without discrimination in their society. This is true for even in certain socialist countries. Often the situation is that of a chauvinist or a narrow nationalist goal to oppress others in the name of assimilation. On the basis of equality of all races, Malaysia being a multicultural society should have embraced a language system of all races on equal footing. There should not have been a classification of official and unofficial languages or formal and vernacular systems. All languages have a right to exist and developed to the needs of the relevant races.

The main characteristic of a multiracial society is its plural identity. Unity in diversity is the strength that should be harnessed to forge a distinct national unity and not by an assimilated uniformity through forced integration. Confronting oppression is the most important principle to defend a race.

In this context recalling Lenin; "…What we do not want is the element of coercion. We do not want to have people driven into paradise with a cudgel, for no matter how many fine phrases about "culture" you may utter, a compulsory official language involves coercion, the use of the cudgel…"

Therefore if national unity becomes a pretext to deny rights of affected races and their vernacular system, then what is achieved cannot be termed as unity. It is fragmenting the socio-cultural fabric, which is oppressive and unfair. In a multicultural society, the characteristics of diversity must be promoted and valued as the strength of the society. Any compelling action to unify the natural diversity judicially or administratively will tantamount to racial oppression, however noble is the intention.

In short, the principles of equality of races need to be the leading principle in dealing with the relationship between races and its vernacular language system. Every race has a right to develop and promote its mother language and culture freely.

Petronas a victim of its own success.

the link is to a well written article about our national petroleum company. Read it and give it a deep thought. Personally i liked it very much.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Critical Thinking Discussion


National unity vs. Vernacular Schools?
Do you think if the education system helps in this matter?
What say you?
Come join us to discuss about this topic!

Saturday, 21st June 2008
2.00 – 4.00pm

Articles about this topic can be found at:

For more information, please email

Friday, June 6, 2008

Oil Price Hike according to Tun M

Dr M on Fuel Subsidy

The government, given the amount of profit made by the national petroleum company (Petronas), can actually afford to maintain the fuel subsidy, said Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The former prime minister who is also advisor to Petronas said in his blog posting today that a gradual subsidy reduction would have been a better option considering the burden of the increase that people have to cope with.

"Roughly Malaysia produces 650,000 barrels of crude per day. We consume 400,000 barrels leaving 250,000 barrels to be exported. Our 250,000 barrels of export should earn us RM27 billion."

But Petronas made a profit of well over RM70 billion, all of which belong to the government. I feel sure that maintaining the subsidy and gradually decreasing it would not hurt government finances," wrote Mahathir.

Following the increase, he reasoned that all other consumer goods, services and luxury goods would increase in price as well. This will be followed by the increase in the cost of living, then increased inflation and the drop of people's standard of living.

"The increase hurts but the pain is greater not just because of the increase percentage-wise is higher than in developed countries but because of the manner the increase is made," said Mahathir.

Floating ringgit a bad decision

Mahathir also said that the government's decision to float the ringgit was a bad one as the subsequent rise of fuel price by the government has placed the people in a more rough position."

In the first place the government should not have floated the ringgit. A floating rate creates uncertainties and we cannot gain anything from the strengthened ringgit.

"Certainly the people have not experienced any increase in their purchasing power because of the appreciation in the exchange rate between the US dollar and the ringgit," he said.

Explaining further, Mahathir said had the government retained the fixed rate system and increased the value of the ringgit presumably at 10 per cent at a time, the cost of imports, in ringgit terms can be monitored and reduced by 10 per cent. This will lead to a 20 per cent decrease in the cost of imports.

"But we know the prices of imported goods or services have not decreased at all. This means we are paying 20 per cent higher for our imports including the raw material and components for our industries," he added.

Govt bowing to IMF and World Bank

The government, Mahathir claimed, instead wanted to please the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank by floating the ringgit and as a result had merely increase the cost of exports without giving the people the benefit of lower cost of imports.

"This is not wisdom after the event. I had actually told a minister not to float the ringgit three years ago. But of course I am not an expert, certainly I know little about the international financial regimes," he said in his usual trademark sarcasm.

The world, Mahathir said, is currently facing economic turmoil due to the depreciation of the US dollar, the sub-prime loan crisis, rising oil and raw material prices and food shortages.

"Malaysia will not escape these problems. I wonder if the government is prepared to face it," he wrote.

He however said there must be ways to mitigate the problems so that the people will not bare the entire burden following the steep rise of fuel price.

"I am sure the government will not just pass all these problems to the people as the review of oil prices every month seems to suggest," Mahathir added.

Mukhriz: Shocking decision

Meanwhile, Umno Youth exco member Mukhriz Mahathir today became the first party member to break ranks by criticising the government over its fuel hike.Calling the move "shocking and drastic", Mukhriz said he was shocked over the sudden fuel price hike.

"All this while, the indication was that the price increase would only take place in August," said Mahathir's youngest child in a statement today. "For me the timing of the rise was not suitable. We should have taken a smarter action in trying to counter the increasing price of crude oil and the needs of the people," he added.

The Jerlun member of Parliament said that the government should have sought the views of everyone in reaching a formula that was more appropriate in countering the need to cut down the government subsidy on oil.

"I think the price rise should have been done in stages to give time for the people to adjust to the changes."Now, with the sudden big jump in price, the people are burdened with the need to quickly adjust to the new requirements which creates unnecessary tension and uncertainty for them," he said.

He also said that he was bemused with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's call for the people to change their lifestyle to adapt to the price rise."The rural folks, including those in Jerlun, do not live extravagantly. How else can the alter their lifestyle now?" he asked.

Taken from (Tun M's own blog!!!! Check it out)