Launch New CPI

The unveiling of the latest budget and its aftermath has been notable for two developments which seem to epitomise the racial bias of the Barisan Nasional and the state system which it controls, as well as revealing of the racist character of the country’s major stake players.

The first was the disclosure of an allocation of RM50 million each to Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina and Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil (national type school) as compared with the allocation of RM450 million to Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan (national school). No doubt, the two mother tongue medium schools have a smaller student population than the Malay medium and should not have expected to receive the same quantum of funding.

But at the same time though, it is unfair to provide the 1,200-plus Chinese medium schools with their more that 600,000-pupil enrolment such a miniscule allocation. Not only are students from the Chinese-language stream drawn from the Chinese community but the SRJK (C) also have a considerable non-­Chinese enrolment, which is estimated at more than 10 percent of the total number. So not only are Chinese young being discriminated against but also non­-Chinese fellow students and the multi­racial staff employed in these schools.

Explain the inequitable allocations

If the politicians and their civil servant functionaries want to argue that SRJK (C) and SRJK (T) are less deserving of equal treatment than the national school in the budget, then they should do it openly and explain why the allocation needs to be ­so small as to amount to only “peanuts” – ­as described by one opposition leader.

There may be good reasons such as previously generous allocations in the past so that these mother tongue education streams already have all the classrooms or facilities they need as compared with national schools that might have been deprived of similar infrastructure. Or the SRJKs have attained such high standards (as measured by UPSR attainment) compared with national schools so that they do not require equal treatment. Hence greater priority and resources should be allocated to the latter to raise their academic standards.

Few in the country will argue with an approach that provides a larger allocation of resources to schools from poor areas – rural and urban ­and where students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds need special targeting or assistance to close the gap with their peer groups.

But no reasons are given. Instead there is a wall of official silence on the matter. The public can be forgiven then for linking the budgetary allocations to the speech delivered by the Prime Minister during the opening of the annual general assembly of the MCA.

The budget as a political and racial instrument

In the Prime Minister’s speech, he made two important points. One was that Putrajaya could do more for the Chinese community, provided they give their support to the BN ruling coalition.

“You have to do your part. You cannot demand and support DAP, you cannot demand and support PR... you demand and support BN, and we will be fair to the Chinese community,”

The only logical inference we can take away from this statement is that the budget has been used to punish the Chinese for not throwing their support behind the MCA and BN during the last general election.

Put bluntly, the message is “You vote the opposition and we will punish you wherever and whenever we can. We may not be able to do it in the budgetary allocation for health or transport or other sectors where the allocations are more race neutral. But in sectors where we can draw the line on the basis of race, we will do it.”

Don’t victimise the young

The above may seem too harsh a conclusion to infer. After all, Najib in the same speech had also reassured the Chinese community of its right to mother tongue education, reiterating that the right is enshrined in the Federal Constitution and in the laws of the land, besides being included in the National Education Blueprint. And the Prime Minister has repeatedly reminded that he is a Prime Minister of and for all Malaysians.

Perhaps it has been an allocation that evaded the Prime Minister's scrutiny since it stems from a Ministry outside his direct control; and over which he has had to give in to the opinion of his Cabinet colleague.

Perhaps too, the Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Education is without fault as the allocation has been “sneaked in' without his knowledge by overzealous civil servants or by a racially biased segment of his Ministry’s senior management seeking to burnish the image of Muhyiddin Yassin as a Malay nationalist Whatever the reason, it is important be revisited and revised that the allocation.

The BN Government, the Ministry of Finance and the other Ministries should not be playing racial politics with the country's budget, especially the type of racial politics which makes victims of innocent young children.

Lastly, it is not only the allocation for primary school education that should be revisited. The entire budgetary allocation for education and training needs to be purged of any racial, political or other unjustifiable bias that is publicly indefensible.