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Is Kedah PAS becoming Umno?

FOR the week of 15 to 21 Nov, the Chinese media highlighted the Kedah government brushing aside the DAP’s opposition to its 50% housing quota; the fallout from the New Era College dispute; and the MCA’s new disciplinary board chairperson.

Sin Chew Daily‘s He Kai Lin took issue with Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak’s claim that he did not care if the sole DAP state assemblyperson, Lee Guan Aik, pulled out from the state government over the 50% bumiputra housing quota

“His statement shows that the DAP’s status in Kedah is similar to the MCA’s and Gerakan’s weak position in the Barisan Nasional (BN),” He wrote in her 18 Nov article titled The Umno-nisation of the PAS Kedah government.

She said PAS was only concerned about whether the four Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) state assemblypersons would pull out over the issue as this would have direct bearing on the state government’s ability to remain in power. 

“[The statement] reflects that the Pakatan Rakyat coalition does not truly embody the ‘pakatan’ spirit. The forming of the alliance is merely based on short-term interests,” said He.

She noted that the PAS-led Kedah government’s bumiputera housing quota is based on the fact that the state’s population is overwhelmingly made up of Malay Malaysians — about 1.5 million.

“This is no different from Umno’s demand to increase the bumiputera equity quota from 30% to 70% to reflect the country’s ethnic composition,” said He.

The writer noted that the three component parties of Pakatan Rakyat — DAP, PKR and PAS — claimed they were equal when the coalition was formed. But that does not appear to be the case.

“If the smaller BN component parties are able to take Umno to task [over certain issues], then DAP and PKR have no excuse to say they cannot provide a check and balance for PAS,” said He.

She said PAS should understand that although the non-Malay Malaysian community supported them in the last election, it does not mean that they support PAS’s welfare state declaration.

“They voted for PAS simply because they denounced the BN’s racist policies. Unfortunately, PAS appears to ignore the message sent by the people,” said He.

The writer noted that since PAS took over Kedah, it has implemented several Islamic policies, including the use of Jawi on billboards, and a ruling that all female models in advertisements had to wear headscarves.

“As all these measures were targeted at Muslims. Non-Muslims did not object as they were not affected. However, the state government’s 50% housing quota has directly affected the interests of those who are not bumiputera. It is the beginning of the Umno-nisation of PAS, so Kedahans must say ‘no’ to them,” said He.

Heart of the New Era dispute

In Kwong Wah e-Newspaper on 20 Nov, Li Zheng Xian said since the start of the New Era College dispute, the media has focused on either supporting Dong Zong chairperson Dr Yap Sin Tian or New Era College principal Dr Kua Kia Soong.

“Very few of them touched on the problem of the system,” said Li in his article titled The myth of supporting Yap or Kua.

According to him, the public was disappointed that Yap, as the top leader of the Chinese education movement, refused to meet students and lecturers.

“I observe that disputes between directors and principals are common in over 60 Chinese independent secondary schools in Malaysia. These disputes are often caused by differences in education ideology. Some [directors and principals] had to step down after openly fighting,” said Li.

This problem has its roots in the Chinese education movement. But no one dares to bring up the issue and push for reform, he said, adding that New Era College’s problem lies in whether the directors have a right to interfere in the college’s administration.

About 300 college students gathered on 7 Nov and staged a protest against the directors while defending Kua.

“We recognise Kua’s contribution. Unfortunately the students have ‘idolised’ him. We need to make clear that the college is sponsored by the Chinese community. No one can consider themselves as equal to the college, and that includes Kua and Yap. If the students continue to idolise Kua, it will not help to solve the matter at all,” said Li.

Li said it was ironic that the staff and students are appealing for academic freedom in the campaign to retain Kua as principal, given that the college has always said it enjoys academic freedom.

“It proves that in the past eight years, Kua has not been actively promoting academic freedom,” said Li.

Though the conflict highlights structural weaknesses and long-term problems in the Chinese education movement, Li said it is also an opportunity to rectify the system and move towards reform.

Reform of the MCA

Oriental Daily‘s exclusive interview with the MCA’s new disciplinary board chairperson Datuk Ng Cheng Kiat on 18 Nov focused on the reform of the MCA.

Ng said in the interview that the recently concluded party election has ended “dynasty politics” and the “cai dan (menu) culture” of the MCA.

“(Datuk Seri) Ong Ka Ting has made two mistakes. First, he appointed his brother (Ka Chuan) to be secretary-general; second, his brother took over his (ministerial) portfolio. You cannot believe it, but it has happened.

“More importantly, no one advised him not to do it in the central committee meeting. Only small fries dared to criticise him in the party,” said Ng.

Ng admitted that both he and Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat were the victims of cai dan culture. He said it was important to change the party’s election system, and that direct elections of the MCA presidency would remove this culture.

“Without cai dan, the party will be able to attract intellectuals and English-educated elites,” said Ng.

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