Where is our political will?

Some incidents in our early childhood and growing up years do stay with us for a long time.

One such for me is when my Form Two English teacher one day started the class with, “How do you tell an American from an Englishman?” This was a strange question in a 1968 setting.

I can’t recall this teacher’s face, but I do remember that his hair was slicked back with “Tancho-like” hair paste. He was in his virtual uniform – a white long-sleeved shirt folded to above the elbows, accompanied by a black-tie slightly broader than his shoelace. Oh yes, there was the ever-present tiepin. It was paired with the rather loose, dark coloured pleated trousers raised to above the navel. Drainpipe hipsters had already been the rage then.

He continued, almost word for word, “If you are knocked off your feet and the other fellow waits for you to get up to continue the fight, he is an Englishman. But if the other fellow continues to kick you when you are down, then he is an American”.

The teacher then explained what is meant by being a “gentleman”, and about the unwritten rules on fairness and decency, and how it will hold us in good stead in our adult life. I’m quite certain we failed to grasp his noble intent at that point, though the “American and Englishman” thingy created some impression. But it sunk in well by the time I was 17. The unwritten rules have been my motto ever since, never mind that on occasions it was regarded as a weakness!

This teacher was Kirkby-trained, which easily explains the mischievous “American and Englishman” analogy!

What happened to us?

Our situation is getting quite ludicrous. Criticising political office holders are taken as insults or a crime, while offensive speeches bordering on hate by the Yang Berhormats, get the pass.

Those who seek public office must seriously build immunity from taking offence. Social media will stay for the longest time, so everybody must accept lively discussions, often with irreverence. If one is born with a “thin face” – seek work away from the limelight.

And to our enforcement agencies, please stop being complicit. Elected officials are entitled to be addressed as YBs, but civil society needn’t accord them as such when their attitude and behaviours habitually run contrary.

There was a time when we had our much loved “instigator”, Datuk Mohammad Nor Mohammad Khalid, aka Lat, who got everyone to learn to “laugh at themselves”. Virtually no one was spared.

He did it with such style and aplomb that the “victims” actually felt honoured to have been noticed enough to be selected and be made fun of! Lat wasn’t just a terrific cartoonist; being astutely observant with the talent to capture the essence of the situation, as he also consciously played his role in nation building through his consistent showcasing of our multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society. Where art thou, Lat protege?

Nowadays, parodies are not tolerated. At one time, moral policing was in their calendar; and now what have we – fun busters?

I would like to enlighten our isolated politicians who periodically issue fierce anti-communism sentiments, that moral/behavioural policing, blind obedience, no freedom of thought/expressions, and brook-no-criticism, were all integral in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc-era administration. Don’t be like the pot calling out the kettle.

Anyway, we already have quite sufficient laws to counter hooliganism and criminal incitement. The question is – have we tried hard enough to be fair and decent when applying them? Or were we overly burdened with second-guessing the political masters?

Time to re-define education

From time to time, concerned Malaysians will decry the politicising of our education.

I have read that Kapitan Cina Yap Ah Loy, who was first credited as the developer of Kuala Lumpur, and who saw the advantages in the convergence of Sungai Lumpur and Sungai Gombak, is now mentioned as an early successful businessman in the city in our history books. That’s just an example of how the Malay Supremacy political agenda had crept into our schoolbooks.

Even the Biro Tata Negara, better known as BTN, designed to mould youths into upstanding adults, was hijacked from the Youth and Sports Ministry and placed in the Prime Minister’s Department to propagate the Supremacy agenda among the civil service.

Vernacular primary schools are part of our national school system, right from the very beginning. They are known as Sekolah (Rendah) Jenis Kebangsaan Cina or SJKC, and SJKT for the Tamil sector. And yet, as if on cue every two to three years, some super rightist NGOs will raise the legitimacy of these schools.

It is bothersome, but it is their right. What I take issue with is that no one from the administration, not even the ministers, saw fit to remind them that the vernacular school system had been crafted in the Federal Constitution, just like the Special Position clauses! Could the NGOs think it is their “obligation to agitate”, owing to this continued silence?

The 1,299 SJKC schools attract around 10 per cent of total primary school enrolment and they are habitually allocated less than 50 per cent of their operating expenditure.

Because they are part of the system, they are completely under the purview of the Education Ministry. It is only the medium of instruction that is different from the Sekolah Kebangsaan. Based on ministry’s 2020 records, Malays made up 15 per cent of the enrolment.

Remember the 632 PhD graduates feat from Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2019?

Yes, our successive administrations have doggedly supported higher education, but unfortunately, the eco-system needs some serious overhauling. The hiring of tutors and lecturers, and the appointments of deans and vice-chancellors are almost exclusively confined to one ethnicity. It is only in the medical faculties where ethnicity is less stringent. I felt I needn’t ask why.

So, when do we begin to correct this “unemployable graduates” phenomenon?

Quantity can only be truly heralded when quality exists. Wouldn’t we rather have our graduates to have well-formed minds, to just being education-filled?
Well, I suppose the latter group would be more attuned to the “Saya yang menurut perintah” sign-off.

The UPM event is still talked about, but not as one of our nation’s finest moments.

Postscript

What has been happening to our beloved Malaysia is like a badly written comedic script. So, the audience tears in grief, instead.

We don’t need any special assistance from the UN or high-priced consultancies to put things right. We have more than enough well-intentioned folks at home. Just stick to the guidelines of our Rukun Negara and have the political will to see it through!

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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