Monday, July 17, 2006

Ethnic Relations Course: Disgraceful! (I)

It was almost a year ago, which I lauded the move by our local universities to introduce a new course on "Ethnic Relations" to promote multi-racial integration at our institutions of higher learning. As part of the syllabus, historical milestone events such as the racial riots of May 13th, 1969 and the Kampung Medan "incident" of 2001 will be included to provide perspective to the racial relations and developments in the country.

Knowing the sensitivities surrounding the various issues, I had expected a watered down course which doesn't deal so much with the issues of the past, but to focus on the cultures of the various ethnic groups and promote greater friendliness and understanding. But never did I expect a textbook on ethnic relations which not only atttempts to distort the truth but promoted historical falsehoods as well. If the historical revisionism in our textbooks were bad - blogged here and here, then this is many times worse, for it redefines the essence of Malaysia.

So, what's the fuss? Thanks to an excellent report by Malaysiakini, the following are some of the contentious issues raised in the new textbook.
  • The textbook focussed solely on the role of ruling party Umno and the Independence of Malaya Party set up in 1946 and 1951, respectively which made it seem “as if there were no other parties and organisations in Malaysia participating in the political arena and the country’s nation-building.”

    As rightly pointed out by Professor Emeritus of History at Universiti Malaya, Khoo Kay Kim, this represents a grossly "selective representation of history".

  • In the case of the May 13, 1969 riots,
    ... the opposition party DAP was singled out as a Chinese-majority party that had ‘upset the Malays’ and contributed to the conflagration that occurred "...the DAP, which is made up mostly of Chinese, conducted a procession in Kuala Lumpur in which they insulted and uttered statements that upset the Malays."
    Once again, this is a factual concoction as "it was BN coalition member Gerakan and not DAP which had participated in the procession in Kuala Lumpur's Kampung Baru that triggered the 1969 riots."
  • With regards to the 2001 Kampung Medan fights between Indians and Malays, the Indians were blamed.
    "The Malay community in the said area had lost their patience with the anti-social attitude of groups of Indian youths and wanted to teach them a lesson..."
    The connotations behind the above statement clearly points to unsubstantiated allegations which borders on racism. I wonder if the text is meant to promote understanding or trigger fights within the classroom.
  • Similarly, the book referred to the call for a non-discriminatory affirmative action policy by the Malaysian Chinese Election Appeals Committee (Suqiu) in 2000 as ‘extremist’.
    "Such (extremist) demands should no longer exist, in order to defend the harmony that has so far been experienced and to preserve the relations and cooperation between the various races in Malaysia.".
    So if Suqiu, who submitted a peaceful memorandum to the Prime Minister of the day requesting for the rights of the community to be protected (rightly or wrongly) is regarded as "extremist", then there should be equal mention of a whole bunch of jokers and idiots from a certain youth wing of a political party who will every now and then decide to illegally storm private talks and seminars. Who are the "extremists"?
I'm upset (understatement). Especially since after reading back my earlier post on the subject, I had warned against this exact outcome.
An attempted politicisation and revisionism of the historical events will not only result in the objectives of teaching the ethnic relations subject not being met, it may actually cement the racial polarisation through perceived bias and injustice in our education and administration system.
Who are the guilty parties for coming up with some of the above nonsense? Well, clearly some half-baked academics from Universiti Putra Malaysia. The editors whose names are published on the cover of the textbook, are Dr Zaid bin Ahmad who is the Head of the Department of Government and Civilisation Studies, Faculty of Human Ecology, and Prof Jayum Jawan, who is a professor of Politics and Government. I think they are an absolute disgrace to the academia, their university and country.

However, historical revisionism and fictional concoction isn't the only thing that this new Ethnic Relations textbook is guilty of. But more on that in the next post.


Anonymous said...

Do you think that the undergraduates in public universities will truly appreciate the distorted facts in the new book by UPM? Never will. Due to the stipulations by Higher Education Ministry and the Government, most of them will just treat the subject merely as a passing subject in order to gain a degree from their respective universities.

The students in universities are mature enough to judge what's right and wrong. With the advent of ICT, the students can easily determine facts from propaganda infused to the young generations. The latest move by the Higher Education Ministry is just a hype that will gradually evanesce from the memory of the public not long after.

Anonymous said...

actually 1969 was the result of a coalition of Gerakan and DAP winning close to 50 percent of Parliament/Congress...not simply Gerakan and not simply DAP, but both combined.

anyways, which month do you think the next racial rioting will be? december? or will it be "Tragedi Oktober"?

please tell me where I can get the books, so I can have a public burning ceremony...

these books are simply another government agenda to reign in the youth to be close minded enough so what UMNO fears will never become true.

what is their worst fear? being on the Opposition side, of course...

Anonymous said...

The worst part of this is... it will probably be tested.

Due to the rote learning system of bolehland, students will inevitably memorise these false statements, and over time, forget about thinking about the facts, and eventually only remember these false ones.

Dont think its possible? Well, ask any recent years SPM graduates. They can tell u everything in the textbook and still not know the actual facts.

Hence, the aim of learning is once again defeated. So much for ethnic relations. Once again, these Goebbels succeeded in spreading false news and propaganda. Congrats.

Anonymous said...

Nazri - “But you must remember the word amok comes from this country and there is a limit to everything,”

they should have included this quote to sum up the people of this country.

Anonymous said...

sorry... should be the people that nazri was referring to. not necessarily all the people of this nation.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a plot from George Orwell's 1984. Rewriting and distorting the history for their own benefits.

Anonymous said...

I think if what you say is true, Tony, the authors of the book have created an equivalent to "academic blasphemy" or the denial of Auschwitz Holocaust.
This is most unforgiven if the book is supposed;y written by responsible academic scholars representing the Academia!
It is so sad to say that nowadays most of the academics in our Institutions of Higher Education no longer subscribed to the elusive and difficult path of searching for knowledge and truth but too buzy looking and kow towing for favours as a cheap and despicable way to success and promotion.
I blame the system of education and the politics of our country for this dastardly behaviour.
Put it simply in this bolihland its not so much as cakap tak serupa bikin, tapi cakap lain, bikin lain!

Anonymous said...

In UPM, one in ten of the students is a non malay, but in UPM library, one in ten of the users is a Malay.

Anonymous said...

It's also interesting that those responsible for the book are reported by The Sun as saying that they had to make the book in two weeks! So, in a slapdash manner they cobbled together the ill thought-out and inaccurate book you rightly condemn.
It's one result of the unrealistic, short-term approach that many of those in charge of educational institutions and government policy adopt. Where they treat academia as an adjunct to their own ideological goals.

Anonymous said...

DAP was never set up along the racial lines. DAP is meant for all Malaysians, no matter whether you are a Chinese, Malay, Indian or some other minorities. Shameful indeed. :(

It's really sad how our politicians can sacrifice the integrity of academics for the sake of fulfilling their political agendas.

Anonymous said...

Black Mojo is 1000% right!

Anonymous said...

A proposal

Randomly invite:

Ten Malaysian Malay scholars

Ten Malaysian Chinese scholars

Ten Malaysian Indian scholars

Ten South-east-asian scholars

Five British scholars specializing on Malaysia

Five American scholars specializing on Malaysia

to research & write a chapter on the representation of the history of Malaysian ethic relations, then - publish it on the internet, invite MALAYSIANs & others to read it.

-- Old Man

Anonymous said...

Old Man...
No need to propose that..
You know very well the level or bench marking of malaysian scholars nowadays.
You must remember the scholars today in our universitiies not like those we had in 60's and 70's.

Old man...if only you are lucky enough to attend the lectures and tutorials at various Malaysian Universities...You will be sorely dissappointed not only at the quality of lecturers but also their presentations.
They no longer make lecturers nowadays who are so proud of their knowledge and willing to go the extra mile for the sake of knowledge

Just look at previous blogs talking about bill board hashim and his cronies...people in the likes of Wirakarnain and Koshy Pillai becoming lecturers. I wonder what sort of knowledge or expertise they will be passing to the students

This country has really gone to the dogs!

Anonymous said...

I think the two writers should be fired for coming out with such a book as reference for the students. They themselves are inciting trouble. The UPM management , dean and Deputy VC, VC should be held responsible for such slipshod work. But I have to say, the minister has got balls to stand up to it and eventually agree to order UPM to withdraw the book. At least we have a minister who is willing to listen and do the right thing. Kudos to you minister. Do the right thing when you know it is right but defend your boys when the need arises.

Anonymous said...

UPM like that laaa.....where got standard. If dont believe ask Tony.

Anonymous said...

I think most of you are against me most of your comments and postings are unfair towards malays (e.g:Anonymous said...
In UPM, one in ten of the students is a non malay, but in UPM library, one in ten of the users is a Malay.

Tue Jul 18, 08:46:40 AM )...well,if you dont like this country and the way it is administered,then u can just find another nation willing to accept you and your ego's..

Anonymous said...

I wasn't born in the modern cities of this nation... I am from the little insignificant villages of this land... and where I come from we know what the culture of this land is.

It is hospitality, friendliness, politeness and being caring. When more and more people of today are quick to say "get out of the country if you don't like it" I think what was the strength of the Malay culture is no more.

We have "kesopanan dan kesusilaan" imprinted in our Rukunegara yet we speak with such hateful words when someone raises questions and doubts about where the country is heading.

We cannot shut the voices of concern without examining them first... where would we be without them? Even the human body has senses that warn you of danger and pain that guide us through evolution... will you shut them up too? Will we all be better off if we sedated ourselves with painkillers and anti depressants to numb our senses... is that the way forward?


Anonymous said...

Unbelievable...simply unbelievable.
I wonder how the future will bode for the nation as there seems like an instituionalized polarization or brain-washing drive going about haha, sigh.

I went to UKM in 1999, came to know we had to take Islamic Studies and pass it to graduate.

In one of the lectures, the lecturer proudly declares that Nabi Muhammad is the first Astronaut!

I recalled that we'll get negative marks if we answer wrongly in the final exam... I decided not to take it as a passing subject and left UKM for a sane overseas university.

Anonymous said...

No offense, but I'd have to say you were naive when initially you simply assume that the heavily politically and racially tainted university administrators would present a fair and progressive view of racial relationship. Why did you choose to ignore these background reality that would provide important starting perspective?

You need to reexamine your assumptions and premises to become more sceptical and, truly sadly, also become more cynical about the current Malaysian context. Yes, you were raised to be patriotic and constructive. But that should not hamper objectivity about where we are.

Else you will find your analysis and comments not very productive and will be far off the target until a year or even more later.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.