KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 2 ― Recognising the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) is “very easy”, but Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad maintained that the federal government has to consider the sentiments of the Malay community and first solve the economic imbalance among the races in the country.
The prime minister was commenting on the hot-button issue of UEC recognition, a demand long-sought by the Chinese community and one of the electoral promises by the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH).
“To recognise the UEC is very easy, just take a pen and sign. But, in Malaysia, to bring two or three races, and Sabah and Sarawak's indigenous people to the same position of economic progress, it takes time. They will feel that they become less and less, this type of imbalance has grown bigger,” he was quoted saying in an exclusive interview with local Chinese-language daily Sin Chew Daily.
“In other countries, they will have riots, fight and kill each other, but in Malaysia, Malays, Chinese and Indians can live and work together.
“Some people also absorb the Chinese culture. I also use chopsticks,” he added.
Asked why the PH government has yet to recognise the UEC, Dr Mahathir repeated past assertions that Malays see the Chinese-language school leaving examination certificate as taking advantage of their capacity for tolerance.
“I wonder how much more do you want them to accept?” he was quoted saying by Sin Chew Daily.
Dr Mahathir indicated that Putrajaya is open to recognising all forms of academic qualifications provided that mastery of Bahasa Malaysia remains a criterion for entry into government service.
“We recognise UEC, I have said so many times. We recognise foreign certificates, we recognise Oxford University certificates and certificates from other universities abroad. But you want the government to accept (certificate), the government has already accepted towards certain exams, but you have to master the basics of BM, we require this,” he was quoted saying.
In a separate report by Sin Chew Daily, Dr Mahathir assured Chinese Malaysians that the Chinese vernacular schools will be continued.
He also touted Malaysia as the only country where citizens of other ethnicities were allowed to propagate their mother tongue and cultures in national educational institutions.
“For example, in Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, they all use the local language, when you listen to them speak you cannot tell them apart (by their race).
“But in Malaysia, we know each race's strong sentiments to preserve their respective language, we allowed it, they wanted to preserve their respective schools, we also allowed it,” he told Sin Chew of the government's policy.
He noted that the then Malayan government had at Malaya's independence wanted a single language and single culture, but had still accepted the desire by different ethnic groups to preserve their languages.
He said this was unlike other countries where they would be clashes if the intention to have homogenity was not accepted, citing as example Myanmar where they allegedly drove people out.