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Getting stuck between two big crises

  • What Malaysians are concerned about is the quota system as well as the position of the four components of PH. Photo courtesy: Bernama

Sin Chew Daily

The matriculation quota controversy has exposed the two major crises encountered by the Pakatan Harapan government: the huge disparity in racial identity and internal ideological differences within the ruling coalition.

Education minster Maszlee Malik said at USM that we can only talk about abolition of matriculation quota if bumi job applicants unfamiliar with the Chinese language will not be turned away.

From the fact that the minister's remarks drew instant applause from the students at the auditorium, it is not hard to see that there is indeed a huge gap in how bumis and non-bumis think of the quota system.

A Chinese parent initiated an online petition to call for the removal of Maszlee Malik as education minister. Subsequently, some Malay netizens started a counter campaign to support the minster, arguing instead that vernacular schools should be abolished as we only need one type of national schools.

As if that is not enough, some ten Malay organizations have also shown up at the education ministry to show their support for the minister.

Meanwhile, primary industries minster Teresa Kok pointed out that matriculation quota controversy is “tearing the society apart” after broad media coverage from their divergent perspectives.

What Kok said was not right, because the Malaysian society has already been torn apart for decades as a consequence of race-based politics.

Malays and Chinese have very different concerns. Compared to other major issues, the Malays are more worried about government assistance and settling their PTPTN debts. The “Bossku” phenomenon within the Malay society is equally inconceivable.

As for Chinese Malaysians, they are more concerned about education and economy, and because of this the rejection of SPM 8A students into matriculation has struck a chord with many. They are also keen to know whether scholarships offered to Palestinian students have come out from the national coffers.

Without narrowing the massive gap that stands the way between ethnic communities, similar controversies will continue to pop up in future, eventually hampering the government's progress in education and economic reforms.

To keep itself in power, the PH government is unwilling to change or educate the people and curtail the spread of racism, and has instead attempted to please a particular segment of the society. This unfortunately gives Umno, PAS and other right-wing organizations a great opportunity to step in and further polarize our society, pushing the nation a step closer to the edge of the cliff.

Another crisis is ideological differences within the PH coalition. After one whole year in power, we can now see more consistency in the objectives of PKR and DAP, while there appears to be more similarities between PPBM and Amanah.

On the matriculation quota controversy, PH opts to avert the issue wherever possible. Even the education minister himself is keeping mum lest more conflicts will be sparked. That's why economic affairs minster Azmin Ali has reiterated that the matriculation issue will not split the PH coalition.

DAP's veteran leader Lim Kit Siang was fast to deny that his party had a hand in the online petition calling for Maszlee's resignation.

The DAP leadership has not only issued a gag order, Penang DAP and JB DAPSY even lodged police reports over Internet lies, especially from Umno Online's Facebook account said to be trying to maliciously split PH.

Lim Kit Siang earlier agreed to a kleptocracy debate with Najib with the motive of diverting public attention from PH's internal conflicts, but later called off for fear of exploitation by the former PM to stage a political comeback.

As a matter of fact, the strategy of creating external threats is no longer relevant today. What Malaysians are more concerned about is the quota system as well as the position of the four component parties of PH.

PH can as well sweep the issue under the carpet as if nothing has happened. But the thing is, when the matriculation intake jumps from 25,000 to 40,000 next year, we will have to face the reality of a sudden surge in demand at our public universities, besides the unresolved UEC recognition issue.

Against the backdrop of fast dwindling public confidence, the PH government needs to come up with effective solutions, not compromises.

The government's ostrich strategy will only tear the nation further apart, rendering the New Malaysia aspiration an empty talk.

Without solid consensus within the ruling coalition, there is no way for the nation to move forward.

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