MOHD Khalid Mohd Nor, 27, attended the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) programme in 2002. Back then, he was a Public Services Department (JPA) scholar about to be sent to Germany to attend university. Khalid is now in London finishing his PhD in advanced manufacturing technologies. He is not on a government scholarship anymore.
The Nut Graph will continue to publish testimonies of former BTN programme inductees for as long as we receive these public testimonies. We believe these stories remain important until the government takes responsibility over how the publicly funded programmes were run to disunite Malaysians.
Indeed, these stories provide important documentation of a programme under the Prime Minister’s Department that until recently was shrouded in secrecy. Here is Khalid’s testimony of his BTN experience, sent to The Nut Graph via e-mail.
TNG: Where did you attend your BTN course?
Mohd Khalid Mohd Nor: Ulu Sepri, Negeri Sembilan.
How long did it last?
Four days and three nights, if I am not mistaken.
What would you say was the racial composition of the participants? How many participants were there?
The participants were only those in my batch who had qualified after their A-Level examinations. We were students from the Overseas Preparatory Programme (PPP), now known as the International Education Centre, located on the Universiti Teknologi Mara campus in Section 17, Shah Alam.
In my batch, around 120 students qualified. If I am not mistaken, there were around 40 non-Malay [Malaysian] students at least. We [Malay Malaysians and non-Malay Malaysians] were all JPA scholars.
What was the racial composition of the trainers/facilitators?
The facilitators were all Malay [Malaysian]. They looked like former police or military personnel. They were really strict.
Other than the facilitators, I cannot remember if there were other outside speakers. But for sure, those who gave the motivation talks or trash talk were all Malay [Malaysians].
Describe a typical day’s programme during the course, from the time you woke up until the time you went to sleep.
For the Malay [Malaysians], the day might have started slightly earlier as we needed to do our morning prayers first. The day started before sunrise — everything was still dark. Once we finished bathing and had breakfast, we would assemble in the main hall.
In the hall, the day would start with us singing Negaraku and I think there was a camp song — I have totally forgotten the lyrics. We would then start listening to a whole series of ceramah about nationalism as we were all bound for Germany. Aside from the talks, there were group activities. We normally ended the day at midnight.
On one of the days, the Malay [Malaysians] had qiamullail, where we stayed in the surau the whole night reciting verses from the Qur’an and performing optional prayers until [the time for obligatory dawn prayers].
Where did the participants sleep? In big dormitories or small rooms?
We all slept in dormitories with bunk beds. The camp in Ulu Sepri looked relatively new.
Outside of the sessions, was there inter-racial/inter-religious/mixed-gender mingling?
Yes, there was mingling among the races and sexes, since we had all studied at the same place for the previous two years. When I was [in the course], I overheard one of the facilitators saying they were surprised to see other races, [since we had come from] UiTM. When they thought of UiTM, they assumed only Malay [Malaysians] were attending.
Were any of the lectures racist in nature? Can you describe one that was particularly disturbing?
I believe our BTN course was catered for Malay [Malaysians], and they were surprised to see other races as well. Therefore the facilitators needed to devise a plan on how to deliver the real message or purpose of BTN.
On the last day, we all assembled just outside the main hall with our belongings. The final speech was given to all of us. Suddenly, only Malay [Malaysian] students were requested to assemble in the surau. We were all surprised. Then it all started. They gave us a piece of paper which I think contained the song Warisan. Before singing, they gave short lectures on [Malayness], ketuanan Melayu and so on.
They [said] other races were not welcome in Malaysia and we must protect our country before we Malay [Malaysians] became slaves or hamba in our own country. I was surprised that they were like this. The worst part was, these hate speeches were delivered in a surau.
Most of the [other Malay Malaysian participants] came from boarding schools, such as the Mara Junior Science Colleges. So some of them agreed with what was presented by the facilitators. Another friend and I could not accept what was presented as we were both from day schools, where we had mingled with all races since childhood. I have mingled with all races since I was in Standard One.
Aside from that, there was this one pak cik who commented on Buddhist and Hindu statues and temples. He was making fun of how the statues were, and also I think he made some sexual comments about those statues. He said the statues of Buddha are fat due to eating too much. This, however, was not done in the surau. It was during one of the team-building sessions. I remembered some non-Malay [Malaysian] friends in that group got upset. He apologised to them eventually.
In my opinion, these incidents show that the facilitators were intolerant towards other Malaysians.
Were any of these lectures documented? Was there a written syllabus for the course? Or was the content communicated verbally/through other means?
I think there were some lectures documented, but those did not have racial content. If it did contain racial stuff, the camp might have erupted from day one. I might still have some stuff from BTN at home, but unfortunately, I threw the paper containing the song that was presented to us in the surau [out of] the bus window as we left the camp.
How did the course impact you? How did it impact the other participants, from your observation?
The course has impacted me in a negative way — I am now more racist towards [fellow] Malay [Malaysians]. Not to all Malay [Malaysians], but to some. I am unsure of my other friends, but I am really disturbed by this, and this is the true reflection of our country.
There are still [Malay Malaysians] who consider non-Malay [Malaysians] in my generation as not worthy of calling Malaysia their home. If not Malaysia, which place are they supposed to call home? They are not migrants but Malaysians.
I am racist towards Malay [Malaysians] who are racist towards other races. Currently the Malaysian government is sending lecturers abroad to complete their masters and PhDs so as to upgrade the Malaysian education system. These lecturers are from government-funded universities.
In my university here [in London], they [have] started a society, but this society only [comprises] Malay [Malaysians] even though they [know] there are other Malaysians here as well. These lecturers will one day go back and start teaching at various institutions and shape future generations.
[My analogy is], if the mould has rough surfaces or edges, how could this mould shape future generations so as to build a truly [united] Malaysia?
Are there any positive things about the course you observed?
I personally did not gain anything positive from the BTN.