(Updated 7 March 2009, 7.25pm)
KUALA LUMPUR, 7 March 2009: Police fired tear gas and arrested several people during a march to Istana Negara today to protest the use of English in the teaching of maths and science.
The march, involving more than 2,000 protesters, was organised by the Movement for the Abolition of the Teaching of Mathematics and Science in English, known by its Malay acronym of GMP.
The group had originally gathered at the national mosque before 2pm. By 2.15pm, marchers broke through the police shield after a brief tussle to make their way to the highway. They were joined by other groups who had gathered at Sogo and Central Market.
At 2.30pm, the police began firing tear gas into the crowd. At least three people were arrested in the ensuing pandemonium.
Despite the police warning, GMP representative, national laureate A Samad Said, together with GMP chairperson Datuk Hassan Ahmad and Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall president Datuk Bong Hon Liong, were escorted into the palace to hand over their memorandum to the Agong.
The crowd began dispersing after the memorandum was delivered at 2.50pm.
GMP representative Prof Abdullah Hassan defended the movement’s right to make its voice heard. “This is our last effort,” Abdullah said.
He added that groups against the teaching of mathematics and science in English had been petitioning the government for some time, but to no avail.
“Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein asked us to wait until the end of 2008, promising to study the issue. [The government] should keep their word,” Abdullah said.
GMP, which was launched on 31 Jan, comprises 50 organisations, ranging from political parties such as Parti Keadilan Rakyat and PAS; student groups such as the Persatuan Kebangsaan Pelajar Islam Malaysia; and language stakeholders like Persatuan Penulis Nasional and Persatuan Linguistik Malaysia.
On 17 Feb, GMP had marched to Parliament to deliver a memorandum to Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat leaders with the same demands.
Parties join forces to fight PPSMI