As Chinese congress barred, analysts say dialogue between Chinese, Malay communities urgently needed

Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said the pushback against the teaching of Jawi script as a subject in the vernacular school syllabus by Chinese educationists was a spillover from the longstanding distrust between the government and the non-Malay communities. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said the pushback against the teaching of Jawi script as a subject in the vernacular school syllabus by Chinese educationists was a spillover from the longstanding distrust between the government and the non-Malay communities. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 — Now that the police have stepped in to stop the Chinese Organisations Joint Conference in Kajang today, what’s next?

Some analysts polled by Malay Mail suggested that a reconciliation between the affected sections of society is urgently needed to calm things down.

Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said the pushback against the teaching of Jawi script as a subject in the vernacular school syllabus by Chinese educationists was a spillover from the longstanding distrust between the government and the non-Malay communities.

“The non-Malay community fears that their cultural and religious rights are being gradually eroded by having to submit to the domination of Malay and Islamic culture, whereas the Malays feel that the supremacy of their culture and religion is being challenged by the non-submission of the non-Malays.

“Some sort of national reconciliation dialogue between the various communities is clearly needed,” said Oh.

Meanwhile, political analyst Lim Teck Ghee said the groups should be free to hold a public gathering, and that the government should welcome the resulting feedback instead of condemning it.

“I am sure that the thinking public does not understand why Dr Mahathir should make veiled threats as he has done so in the case of Dong Zong since he has been personally active in similar events in the past and recently,” said Lim.

Lim was referring to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s attendance at the recent Malay Dignity Congress in October, saying such actions suggested the prime minister was being hypocritical with his comments after his disapproval of the Chinese Organisations Joint Congress.

“Such conduct spells double standards and worse. If there had been any adverse impact arising from the meeting, the blame would have fallen squarely on the government rather than Dong Zong.

“However, I am sure cooler heads would have prevailed and the authorities would have benefitted from the feedback provided by the Chinese educationists and the several hundred thousand parents and families who oppose the teaching of jawi in vernacular schools,” he said.

Lim also pointed out the approved implementation of Jawi, despite disagreements from education groups, suggested that views that were sought by the government from parents and students were swept aside and overlooked.

Independent political analyst Khoo Kay Peng suggested the introduction of such subjects be up to the respective schools to decide and urged the government to respect diversity and each individual’s freedom of choice.

“Dr Mahathir, as the head of the country, should not have spoken about reaction from the ultra Malays. It doesn’t concern them,” Khoo said referring to the prime minister’s warning of possible conflict.

Today’s planned gathering represents the latest conflict between the advocates of the vernacular schooling system and the government, with past disagreements stemming from Pakatan Harapan’s inability to officially recognise the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) of the Malaysian Independent Chinese Secondary Schools (MICSS) as a school leaving certificate.

Initially, around 1,000 people were expected to attend the event, from representatives of school boards, parent-teachers associations and alumni associations, to those from the Malay and ethnic Indian communities, to discuss the teaching of the jawi script in vernacular schools.

However, Kajang police said yesterday they obtained a court order barring organisers from holding the event and urged the public to not attend the congress, or any other events held by groups in protest of the former — fearing that riots and affray may happen in response to the event organised by Dong Jiao Zong.

This comes after Malay-Muslim groups said they will hold two demonstrations in protest against the conference: one at the New Era College to try to stop the event and another at Kajang Stadium.

In response, one of Malay groups, Angkatan Gerak Minda Malaysia declared “victory” over the police’s decision, but its allies in this matter, students’ group Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung and Malay rights group Perkasa, to continue pressuring Dong Zong to stop rejecting Jawi.

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