Chinese Organisations Congress - a bad idea in rotten times - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, December 23, 2019
Malaysiakini : “[Kids] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.” - Jim Henson, 'It's Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider'
| As someone who has been accused of being “anti-Malay” and
“anti-Muslim”, the idea that I think this Chinese Organisations Congress
(COC) is a dumb idea is amusing.
In addition, I do not think
that Dong Jiao Zong needs to “respect” the cabinet decision as claimed
by the boy minister. Yes, Dong Jiao has the right to hold the congress
and they should be allowed to air their views without threats of
Ramasamy – who I have often described as the conscience of Harapan –
made a couple of points which I take issue with. The first, he wrote: “I
think the intention of Dong Zong to hold the congress must be respected
in the spirit of democracy.”
Here is the thing though. Dong Jia,
while expecting its democratic rights to be championed, is not allowing
the democratic process to thrive in vernacular schools. What Dong Jiao
Zong needs to respect is the democratic process which they are trying to
stifle with the help of dog-whistle politics.
The second point I have an issue with is when Ramasamy (below)
said: “In the absence of endorsement of Dong Zong, Chinese-based
political parties might not have the legitimacy of the support of the
is very strange. First off, I didn’t realise there were “Chinese-based“
political parties in Harapan. Secondly, how can anyone define what it
means to be “Malaysian” when ethnic-based education groups use single
issues to define the discourse, either political or social?
the old maverick and the far-right will no doubt use this as another
opportunity to react in “a very Malay way”, this is par for the course
in the rotten times we live. While the Chinese educationists are
blowing their dog whistle, the Malay establishment is doing the same.
in this instance, I am not concerned with the possible outrage of the
agents of the fascist state. In this instance what bothers me, is the
justification for the COC and the absurd lengths some folks would go to,
to instil anti-democratic ideas in our education system. Moreover, I am
not talking about the state here. I talk about state-induced fascism on
a regular basis.
If this “congress” is supposed to convince the
state to cancel lessons in vernacular schools, then why is it a “Chinese
Organisations Congress”. Language is important. We talk about dog
whistle “Malay” politics; this is dog whistle non-Malay politics. The
idea is to get minority communities worked up and miss the real issue at
When statements like this are made – “It is to show the
Chinese community’s determination on the matter and show the community’s
strength, voices and hopes so as to draw the government’s attention and
resolve the problem” - what does this say about the "Chinese"
community when Chinese education groups are objecting, on spurious
grounds, for parents deciding on what their children learn?
Tamil educationists is merely a fig leaf, and hopefully, Tamil
”educationists” decide to practice more democracy in their schools and
learn from the process, instead of joining this congress, because the
real issue is not loss of cultural identity, but rather a loss of
“sovereignty” to democratic processes.
how exactly is this going to “ruin the relationship among parents from
different ethnicities who send their children to vernacular schools"? I
would think that Chinese educationist groups using this issue, instead
of letting the democratic process play out, is what could ruin the
relationship among the different ethnicities. People don’t mind losing
if they don’t have to have their noses rubbed in it by people who use
this issue as some sort of dog whistle.
The real issue is not that
the state is imposing these lessons. It is the anxiety of these schools
that, voted in a democratic manner, the “ideas” of the state will seep
into these schools. What kind of fascist thinking is it when Dong Jiao
Zong is concerned that the new guidelines will turn PTAs into an
"enforcement tool" for gathering opinions?
First off, the PTA is
already a process in which opinions are gathered, and as far as it is an
“enforcement tool”, I have no idea, and neither does Dong Jiao Zong, if
these kinds of guidelines are going to be the norm from the Ministry of
Even if it becomes a norm, I would argue that
giving PTAs the option of accepting or rejecting proposed policy
initiatives from the state is a good thing. Something that not only
enhances democratic imperatives in the grassroots, but also exposes the
general public to policy decisions which they should be doing, instead
of leaving these decisions to mandarins who believe they know better.
is always a good thing when children see their parents active in the
democratic process, especially when it comes to issues that affect them.
Hopefully, this will lead to more space for children and young people
to engage in processes which affect their futures and not leave
everything in the hands of people who think they know better, but can't
come up with rational arguments to defend their political or religious
I think teaching Jawi in schools – vernacular or otherwise – is a good
thing? No, I do not. If I had a schoolgoing child, my vote would be
'no'. But here’s the thing, it is up to the school boards to make the
case to the PTAs as to why they oppose this and not restrict the
democratic process because they believe they, and they alone, should
determine the issues at play.
All this seems so basic to me. We
live in a country where the “big daddy” government tells us what is
right for us. We have numerous intellectuals telling us that the state
is controlling every aspect of our lives.
Now it seems we
have “Chinese” educationists who do not want democratic processes in
their schools. Do not want PTAs to debate and determine a course of
action. Do not want children to see how the democratic process impacts
their lives in a meaningful way. Now, the MoE should take into
account schools with no PTAs and allow the same option of rejecting or
accepting Jawi lessons. If anything concerns me about these guidelines,
it is this very issue, which is schools that do not have PTAs.
the state should do, is to make available the same democratic process
which “better off” schools have, and not take the easy way out and
implement ideas without consulting the stakeholders who truly matter -
the parents. This is where we should focus our attention. Schools
that do not have PTAs cannot participate in this process, and this is
where the state can take the easy way out and impose on these unlucky
schools. That’s the real issue, that the state may impose these
lessons without the consent of parents. But why are these Chinese
educationists so insecure?
As someone whose politics is not
mainstream, I am always anxious when it comes to the majority imposing
values, which I find fascist, on me. But that's democracy for you. Most
often it sucks.
Surely, if these Chinese educationists believed
that parents would find this as a repulsive idea as they do, why are
they so afraid of letting parents decide on this issue?