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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 12 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak gave his assurance today that his government will continue to uphold the right to mother tongue education, in what is seen as a move to mend a rift caused by a recent proposal to scrap Chinese vernacular schools.
The prime minister went further to say that there is no reason why Malays cannot learn to speak Mandarin, just as his own son has done.
"Don't worry about SJKC, because it is already enshrined in the Constitution and the law. It is even included in the National (Education) Blueprint," he said to a standing ovation when officiating at the MCA's 61st annual general meeting here.
MCA leaders have been in a tizzy after an Umno division leader proposed for a discussion to abolish Chinese-medium schools at his party’s general assembly next month, claiming the schools to be hotbeds for racism and anti-establishment sentiments.
Petaling Jaya Utara Umno deputy division chief Mohamad Azli Mohamed Saad was reported by newspapers Mingguan Malaysia and New Sunday Times on October 5 as saying that the government should at the same time consider raising the intake of Malay and Indian students and teachers in Chinese schools to 60 per cent.
His statement sparked a flurry of angry responses from MCA leaders, with party president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai demanding a police investigation to determine whether or not Mohamad Azli's statement was seditious.
Najib today stressed that Putrajaya's support for vernacular education has its roots in the social contract that was established by the country's founding fathers.
He added that his administration has proven its commitment to Chinese vernacular education, having set aside RM50 million for Chinese primary schools and RM25 million for national-type Chinese secondary schools, but urged vernacular schools to return the favour.
Taking the example of Liow's speech earlier this morning, which was delivered entirely in Malay, the prime minister said it is only fair that students in Chinese schools have a strong command of the national language.
"We hope SJKC to study the national language well,” he said, using the Malay initials for Chinese vernacular schools.
“No more 'gua', 'lu'," he added, using pidgin Malay words meaning "me" and "you" that are typically associated with the ethnic Chinese.
"Speak like the MCA president. His entire speech was in Bahasa (Malaysia), and it was very smooth. Even the Malays can learn Mandarin, no problem. Even my own son learned how to speak Mandarin," he said.
Vernacular schools continue to grow in popularity here in Malaysia, with an increasing number of non-Malay parents preferring to send their children to Mandarin- and Tamil-language schools over the Malay-language national schools.
Defenders of Bumiputera special privileges regularly target vernacular schools to deflect demands for equal treatment of the country’s races after decades of race-based affirmative action.