HOPES FADE IN THE UEC RECOGNITION FARCE

Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 3 Jan 2019

There seems to be no end to the UEC recognition farce. The Prime Minister now tells us that “the recognition of UEC needs to consider the feelings of Malays.” This is after the Education Minister had set up a special committee “…to gather views on recognising the Unified Examination Certificate”. The justification for selection of the committee members was never spelled out nor were the terms of reference clear from the start. The Minister had earlier said that formal recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) will only be made “after a comprehensive and holistic study on the issue has been completed… whether the formal recognition of UEC could potentially compromise unity and harmony among Malaysians … the status of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language…”

Isn’t it amazing that the Cambridge O levels and A levels have been held in our country since Independence but we don’t hear anyone voicing consternation about how these foreign English-language examinations can hurt the feelings of the Malays or compromise the unity and harmony among Malaysians or threaten the status of the national language!

It was clear from the start that the Prime Minister and his Pribumi Party had no intention of recognising the UEC, the school leaving certificate of the Malaysian Independent Chinese Secondary Schools. We now know that their party exists to champion the “Bumiputera Agenda”. As Mahathir has admitted, these election promises were made because PH never thought they would win anyway…

Wasting time and money over special committee

So why put the country through the farce of setting up a “special committee” and wasting everybody’s time and money?

What credentials do the special committee members have to evaluate the UEC?

What factual data and criteria will they use to evaluate the UEC?

How broad is the spectrum of people whose views are sought?

Don’t we already know who form the majority in this country?

From the interview with Sinchew, the Prime Minister himself has exposed his ignorance and prejudice against the UEC; the journalist had to remind him time and again of the facts surrounding the UEC.

Reveal MQA’s assessment of the UEC

The only missing piece in this whole UEC recognition farce is the professional assessment of the UEC by the Malaysian Quality Assurance (MQA) that is tasked with doing this job of academic accreditation of certificates. Thus, if the MQA is a professional accreditation institution without political constrictions, it would spell out in no uncertain terms what its audit of the UEC has concluded.

Has the new PH government consulted the MQA on this? It does not matter if the requirements of the MQA are far more stringent than the National University of Singapore’s – it just has to spell out in no uncertain terms what the results of that audit are! The government cannot simply suspend a purely professional decision for more than forty years!

It should be pointed out at the outset that, in sharp contrast to the capabilities of foreign students, BM and English are compulsory language papers in the UEC and many MICSS schools also run the SPM at the fifth secondary year (The MICSS is a six-year secondary school system). This easily demolishes the myth that MICSS students only study in the Chinese medium.

To be fair to our civil service and local tertiary institutions, if they require SPM credit in BM for UEC holders, that is reasonable. Nevertheless, the academic accreditation of the UEC by MQA is a totally separate matter altogether.

Malaysians should also know that there are hundreds of non-Chinese students in the MICSS and almost 100,000 non-Chinese students in Chinese-medium primary schools of Malaysia. This is in sharp contrast to UiTM which does not admit ANY “non-Bumiputeras” into this public institution even though “non-Bumiputera” taxpayers have also paid for this institution! Remember that there are more than 100,000 “Bumis Only” students in UiTM while there are only 85,000 Chinese, Malay, Indian and indigenous peoples in the 60 MICSS.

So, which of these systems would you say better promotes inter-cultural understanding and national unity? For sure the “Bumiputeras-only” policy at UiTM violates the International Convention for the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and that is why Parti Pribumi’s “Bumiputera Agenda” does not allow it to ratify ICERD. Article 153 is merely a red-herring tossed into the debate.

The only new factor in the UEC saga is the PH election promise

It is clear that PH won the vast majority of the Chinese votes during GE14 mainly because among other promises, the PH manifesto and the PH leaders pledged to recognise the UEC, the school leaving certificate of the Malaysian Independent Chinese Secondary Schools that has been maligned by UMNO all these years since 1975. Voters were given the impression that such recognition was part of PH’s reform in a new and inclusive Malaysia.

The UEC has been held every year since it started in 1975. Today, hundreds of respected foreign tertiary institutions around the world recognize the UEC and our MICSS students are found in countries all over the globe, including France, Germany and Russia. Ever since the Eighties, the National University of Singapore has been poaching hundreds of top UEC students not only for their academic excellence but also for their trilingual capabilities in an effort to balance the cultural mix of their Anglophile Singaporeans.

PH lacks moral courage and political will

The truth is that, through the years the UEC has become a political issue since UMNO refuses to recognize the MICSS system because of their “Malay Agenda”, a policy that is holding back creative development of our human resources. The pussyfooting we see now from the PH government is nothing more than the lack of moral courage and political will to break from the years of UMNO bigotry and racism. This is the price we pay for adhering to race-based political parties…

Recognising the UEC will allow MICSS graduates to be admitted into our public tertiary institutions as well as the civil and armed services, which is the stated intention of the government recently. This will help to promote greater integration among Malaysians and also alleviate the financial plight of those MICSS graduates who cannot afford tertiary education in the private colleges or abroad. In other words, by not recognising the UEC, the PH Government is depriving a sector of the Malaysian population of their human right to education and access to state institutions that have been paid for by all Malaysian taxpayers.

More fundamentally, the reneging on their election promises by PH leaders is patent dishonesty. As Caliph Abu Bakr so strongly pronounced on this principle: “The greatest truth is honesty and the greatest falsehood is dishonesty.” Plato was more cynical when he said: “Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty…”

Postponing Human Rights and Empowering Politics of Hate


SUARAM regrets the turn of events which resulted in the postponement of the Human Rights Day celebration organized by SUHAKAM and the suggestions that the celebration was a counter-rally against the Anti-ICERD rally organized by the opposition party.

Continue reading “Postponing Human Rights and Empowering Politics of Hate”

POLITICAL WILL, NOT CONSTITUTION, KEY TO RATIFYING ICERD

Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 19 November 2018

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said that implementing the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) would entail amending the Federal Constitution, and this is an almost impossible thing to do. He pointed out that a two-thirds parliamentary majority was needed for this to happen.

Continue reading “POLITICAL WILL, NOT CONSTITUTION, KEY TO RATIFYING ICERD”

ICERD ADDRESSES DISCRIMINATORY POLICIES AND PRACTICES

Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 23 Oct 2018

The current debate about whether Article 153 of our Constitution violates the International Convention on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) misses the point about Malaysia ratifying this important Convention. The vital question we need to ask is: Are we ready to face the world community and declare that we are free of racially discriminatory policies and practices?

Continue reading “ICERD ADDRESSES DISCRIMINATORY POLICIES AND PRACTICES”

IS RACISM THE MALAYSIAN NORM?

IS RACISM THE MALAYSIAN NORM?
Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 25 June 2016

Ever since the news broke about the residents at Waja Apartments in Taman Tun Perak, Cheras openly displaying a banner calling for realtors to refrain from renting condominium units to African tenants (“Say No to African People”), I have waited to see if there would be protests by Malaysians, especially politicians and community leaders against this blatant racism.

I was sadly disappointed. After all this time, it is only former Miss Malaysia-Universe Deborah Henry who has protested against this blatant racism, saying it is unfair to generalise and stereotype a community for the mistakes of a few: “There’s a thin line between racism and discrimination. One bad person doesn’t equate to an entire community.” She criticised the action of displaying racist banners in residential areas as unhealthy, saying that instead, these issues need to be dealt with appropriately. It has been reported that such banners against Africans have cropped up in Shah Alam and the Sunway area as well.

In fact, such blatant racism is not just unhealthy; it is condemned and outlawed by the world community, in particular the Declaration of the World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Durban 2001:

35. We recognize that in many parts of the world, Africans and people of African descent face barriers as a result of social biases and discrimination prevailing in public and private institutions and express our commitment to work towards the eradication of all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance faced by Africans and people of African descent…”

Just in case Malaysians feel they are a superior race to Africans, they may like to know that following from this clause of the 2001 Declaration at Durban:

36. We recognize that in many parts of the world, Asians and people of Asian descent face barriers as a result of social biases and discrimination prevailing in public and private institutions and express our commitment to work towards the eradication of all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance faced by Asians and people of Asian descent…”

Living in a ‘Malaysian Bubble’

Yes, for years through the colonial experience, Asians have suffered racism and racial discrimination even in their own countries. However, Malaysians who have lived all their lives in this post-colonial “Malaysia Bubble” have had a different lived experience in which they do not identify as victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The reason the Malaysian government has not ratified the International Convention on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) is because racial discrimination is part of “normal life” in Malaysia where it is disguised as “affirmative action”. For what is the policy that excludes “Non-Bumiputeras” from public institutions such as UiTM but blatant racial discrimination? Likewise, the policy that gives discounts for house purchases, etc. to “Bumiputeras only”.

Time for an Equality Act

Once Malaysia ratifies the ICERD, we would have to introduce legislation to outlaw racism and racial discrimination. In countries that have ratified the ICERD, they have introduced an Equality Act and incorporated Equality into their Human Rights Commission to ensure the implementation of the Equality Act. Furthermore, to outlaw racism and speeches that promote hate crimes, such countries have introduced a Race & Religious Hatred Act to deal with intolerant racists and assorted bigots.

Until such time, this ugly incident is a reminder to each of us to audit our own biases and prejudices, and reflect on how we would feel faced by such discrimination. Certainly Asians who have travelled abroad will have experienced racism at first hand and in different guises.

You’re an African!

Watching all this racism against Africans by Malaysians, I am reminded of this song by Peter Tosh from the Seventies, titled ‘African’ which crystallizes the nature of racism:

Don’t matter where you come from

As long as you’re a black man, you’re an African

No mind your nationality

You have got the identity of an African…

So don’t care where you come from

As long as you’re a black man, you’re an African

No mind your complexion

There is no rejection, you’re an African…

‘Cause if your plexion high, high, high

If your complexion low, low, low

And if your plexion in between, you’re an African…

And if you come from Russia

(You are an African)

And if you come from Malaysia

(You are an African)!”