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Contentious issues blocked

FROM 27 Sept to 3 Oct 2008, the Chinese-language media looked at the banning of a TV programme, the teaching of maths and science in English, and the Internal Security Act (ISA).

In a exclusive report on 1 Oct, the online news portal reported that one of Edisi Siasat Mandarin‘s programmes was axed — the second time within a month. Edisi Siasat Mandarin is a popular NTV7 Chinese-language documentary. 

The Merdeka Review report, titled Demonstration Footage Causes Siasat Ban for the Second Time, said the TV station learnt on 30 Sept that Siasat‘s programme The Power of Civil Society was banned.

The programme, which would have aired on 4 Oct, was supposed to have featured police violence against the public, and promoted demonstrations as a means to fight for rights.

The Merdeka Review report said in mid-September, another Edisi Siasat Mandarin programme titled Where is the End to Controversial Conversion Cases? had also been banned because it “touched on sensitive religious issues and was not suitable to be aired.”

According to the report, the Edisi Siasat Mandarin team interviewed Bandar Mahkota Cheras Open Access Road Committee chairperson Tan Boon Wah. The banned documentary discussed the civil action by Bandar Mahkota Cheras residents in opposing a road barrier, while airing footage of police dispersing protesters. Merdeka Review said this footage was one of the reasons for the programme’s ban.

The programme also featured the demonstrations against the fuel price hike, and the 40,000-strong Bersih rally in 2007 that called for electoral reforms. The Bersih footage apparently showed Parti Keadilan Rakyat de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim being hoisted by the crowd.

The documentary was said to “instigate residents to use demonstrations as a way to fight for their interests”, which resulted in the programme’s banning.

Edisi Siasat Mandarin will appeal against the second ban after Hari Raya Aidilfitri, but the production team is not hopeful. They appealed against the earlier ban but have yet to receive a response. The Merdeka Review report reckoned that viewers might never be able to watch the programme on conversion cases.

Teaching in English

Teaching maths and science in English is an ongoing issue highlighted by the Chinese media. 

Sin Chew Daily‘s 3 Oct editorial, titled It is Time to Rectify the Policy of Teaching Maths and Science in English, said the education ministry’s indecisiveness about the policy has resulted in many complaints from parents.

The daily cited a series of roundtable meetings since July 2008 by the education ministry on the policy. Even though there were differing conclusions, the chairperson of the meetings, ministry director-general Datuk Alimuddin Mohd Dom, concluded that the majority supported the policy. Chinese education movement Dong Jiao Zong criticised Alimuddin’s conclusion, saying there was evidence that the policy did not receive strong support.

Sin Chew Daily said educationists, education institutions and non-governmental organisations were unhappy with the government for looking only at the surface and ignoring several professional reports on the policy’s viability. According to the editorial, professional reports proposed in the roundtable meetings included one from Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris that proved that the policy was lacking.

The editorial urged the education ministry to seriously study the position of various organisations that oppose the policy, suggestions by civil society, and university research reports.

“[Alimuddin] should not only compile selective information to divert the public’s attention, but all suggestions and reports to make a comprehensive report for the minister’s final decision. He should not issue irresponsible statements and confuse the public,” said the editorial.

Repealing the ISA

Oriental Daily ran an exclusive interview on 29 Sept with former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad titled Intention to Repeal Internal Security Act (ISA) was Opposed by Police.

When asked whether the ISA should be repealed or amended, Mahathir said, “I had suggested repealing the ISA, but the police was unhappy and opposed it. I had even suggested to cut down the period of detention from two years to one year, but again did not get police support.

“We have to cooperate closely with the police as they are the enforcement unit, and [we] cannot ignore their opinion,” said Mahathir.

In the same interview, Mahathir also talked about former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim as a new kid on the block.

“When he became a cabinet minister, he wanted bold reforms. However, before the cabinet made any decision on judicial reform, he publicly stated his personal suggestions.

“He thought that as a minister, he has the freedom to reform the law or policies. If he had had discussions in the cabinet or with other cabinet ministers, he would understand the opinion of others.

“But after he openly made his suggestions, it built up public expectation for the reforms to be realised, when in fact some of the ministers disagreed with him.”

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