Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Mp for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the Selangor State DAP Committee meeting on Friday, 1.6.1984 at 8 pm

Education Ministry’s regulation that Jawi is a compulsory subject violates Article 152 of Malaysian Constitution

On 26th Feb.1984, when opening the Penang DAP State Seminar on Malaysian Culture, I stated for the first time that there was proposal, in conformity with the ‘One Language, One Culture’ policy proclaimed after the Barisan Nasional’s April 1982 general elections victory, to make Jawi a compulsory subject for all pupils, including Chinese and Tamil primary schools.

Although the Deputy Education Minister, Dr. Tan Tiong Hong, vehemently denied at that time that there was any such plan, it is now clear that either Dr. Tan did not know what he was talking about or he was taking part in a deliberate plan mislead the parents, pupils and the public.

The compulsory teaching of Jawi to school pupils was officially admitted for the first time in the Actionline of New Straits Times May 31, 1984, in response to an irate parent’s query to know whether it was compulsory for non- Malays to learn Jawi, as his nephew at a primary school in Jalan Peel, Kuala Lumpur was made to write 100 lines in Jawi because his earlier Jawi writing was unsatisfactory.
In response to this letter, the Federal Territory Deputy Director of Education, Haji Zainal Bahaudin said Jawi now compulsory for all pupils. He said:

“Everybody must learn Jawi as it is now taught as part or Bahasa Malaysia in the primary school syllabus.
“Previously Jawi was taught during religious classes and as such only Malay pupils were taught.
“Parent should be clear that Jawi is now regarded as part of the academic subject and since Bahasa Malaysia is a compulsory subject, pupils – regardless of race – must study it.”

The DAP is opposed to the introduction of Jawi as a compulsory subject for the primary schools, for it is clearly against the Constitutional provision in Article 152 which provided for the national language to be Rumi script of Bahasa Malaysia. The Jawi script therefore is not part of the national language, or official language.

If education officials can by administrative decisions amend the meaning of the national language to include the Jawi script, then they have superseded even Parliament itself which is the sole authority to amend the Constitution. No wonder a Deputy Minister like Dr. Tan is treated like small boy by his Ministry officials, who think they are even more powerful than Parliament! The DAP is also very concerned at the dangerous precedent that is being set to make Jawi a compulsory subject, by making it part of Bahasa Malaysia. If this is not challenged, then in future, some over-zealous education officials would suggest that Islamic civilisation should also be taught as part of Bahasa Malaysia!

The DAP is not opposed to the teaching and learning of Jawi, but cannot agree to its introduction as a compulsory subjects, like raising the standard of English or mother-tongue proficiency for non-Malay students.

Those Tung Chiau Chung officials who joined the Gerakan in the April 1982 general elections on the platform of ‘Assault BN to rectify BN’ should also let the public know whether this is one of their many bitter fruits of ‘rectification’! Another such bitter fruits is the announcement by the Gerakan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Posts, Telecoms, Au Howe Cheong, that government departments would not accept cheques written in chinese.

Mr. Lim Kit Siang released this statement on June 1, 1984 and is filed under Constitution, Education.

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