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Monday, August 23, 2010

Racist teachers and segregated school system

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Although the Malay ultra nationalists may deny it, nonetheless the way they talk and behave are no less racist than the whites of South Africa during apartheid. 

Despite Umno’s endless denial of an apartheid approach to race relations, the Malay-only party differs only in the degree of its racial segregation policies. In truth, Umno is not much different from the white supremacists in the nature of its racism and apartheid methodology employed. 

I have been told that flinging racial slurs are a common happening in national schools (thank God, my mom never sent me to one). The Ketuanan indoctrination has always been there, only that disclosure of the acts of racial and religious bigotry propagated by schoolteachers hadn’t before been given such national prominence. And never the scale of the recent uproar in Kulai, Johor. 

The headmistress of SMK Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra was said to have insulted Chinese and Indians in front of hundreds of students during school assembly last week, which ironically marked the launch of their Merdeka Day celebrations. 

Tens of police reports have been made since then alleging Siti Inshah Mansor to have uttered the derisory and degrading comments, extreme in both its race and religion-slanted denigration. She was said to have described the prayer strings worn by Indians as akin to a dog chain or leash, and that Chinese and Indians are “penumpang” in this country.  

One of the police reports by a student also alluded that Siti Inshah is a repeat offender in bullying children. It said that she had ordered the prayer bracelet worn by Hindu students to be cut.

However no disciplinary action has been taken against her, such as demotion in the first instance. She was merely transferred from SMK Kelapa Sawit to her present school located in the same district.  

Sweeping problem under the carpet 

Education director-general Alimuddin Mohd Dom was quoted as saying that the incident was just “a misunderstanding” and the matter has been resolved. 

The Education DG clearly took a prejudicial stand before the slew of serious complaints had been fully investigated. His action has been interpreted as an attempt to protect Siti Inshah.

Many people, especially the parents, perceive that a transfer will not be a deterrent without any accompanying punitive or disciplinary action. It is clear that the culprit’s half-hearted apology and Alimuddin’s excuse on her behalf are hardly adequate. 

In fact, when the principal tried to fob off the incident as a mere “misunderstanding” to the students, cries of “pembohong” and “penipu” rang out among those gathered. She is viewed as unfit to be heading a school as the trust of office has already been breached. 

The general public, aghast at this incidence of overt Ketuanan Melayu and Ketuanan Islam, expects nothing less than Siti Inshah’s expulsion from the teaching profession. It is further fitting that she should be charged in court under the Penal Code for violating her position as a senior civil servant. 

Barisan Nasional must be prepared to show that it is willing to stamp out all forms of racism, including the systematic racism that shackles our society. 

Symptomatic of deeper fissures 

Why has there been such an outcry over the principal’s uncouth behaviour and racist mindset?

The reason is that Indians and Chinese perceive this outburst to be only the tip of the iceberg. Under the surface is the acute institutionalized racism, especially in the largely mono-racial civil service, and education system that has spawned an almost wholly mono-racial teaching staff in the national schools.

It no longer shocks us when some Malay leaders and students praised Siti Inshah’s aggressive stance as almost heroic. 

No less racist than Siti Inshah Mansor was another perpetrator in SMK Bukit Selambau, Kedah. The principal was alleged to have accused non-Malay students eating in the common area as being disrespectful to the fasting month of Ramadan even though the school canteen was closed. Like Ridhuan Tee, this so-called educator wanted the out-group [students] to return to China.

The verbal abuse targetting the minorities in this country has been a series of sustained assaults over the years without any corrective action from the Umno-led Barisan Nasional government. 

Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that today the minorities are, rightly, sceptical seeing as how the authorities have not indicated any commitment to fight racism, and Umno Youth chiefs have made it a habit to publicly wave the keris to assert Malay supremacy. Recently, as prominent a personage as ex-premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad was pictured at the Perkasa inaugural congress with the keris-raising Ibrahim Ali. 

Like the Malay proverb ‘Bapa borek anak rintik’, what can one expect from a bureaucracy that has been brainwashed by the Biro Tata Negara – which for decades has propagated and propagandized Malay supremacy or Ketuanan Melayu? 

No physical barrier but shut out nonetheless 

What is the difference between white supremacy in apartheid South Africa and Malay supremacy in Umno’s regime, really?  

Firstly, they differ only in the skin colour of the powers-that-be, not in their shared immorality and the moral atrocities that have occurred when the apartheid policies were carried out. 

Secondly, they only differ in that one is majority racial dominance and the other minority racial dominance. In fact, majority racial dominance is much harder to break and hence this makes it a greater evil than minority dominance.

The developed countries have shown that civility is gauged on how a minority or minorities are treated by the majority. 

The incivility displayed by the two school principals has been equally condemned by my Malay counterparts in PAS and PKR. The affected parents are appreciative of the Malaysian spirit and commitment to justice shown by these Pakatan representatives. 

On the other hand, Umno and its accessory to apartheid – MCA and MIC – should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves that we are witnessing episodes like these after they have been ruling the country uninterrupted for so long … more than half a century to be precise. 

Education Minister Muhyddin Yassin announced the setting up of a task force to investigate the matter, but only a week after the controversy broke. By the same token, the condemnation of Siti Inshah by Barisan Nasional Youth chief Khairy Jamaludin comes too little too late; the source of the problem can never be its solution. 

Siti Inshah, and all those in the political arena and media who have defended her, are a sad reminder of the state of our nation.

Racial integration is still so fragile that we have national schools which are shunned by minority parents. Malaysian children are learning in a segregated environment. When I drive my kids past Mara campuses, I say to them: “Look, there is no (physical) racial segregation here but you cannot study in this university because your skin colour doesn’t look right.” 

Just what is the difference between putting up a sign saying “No non-Bumiputeras allowed” and the ‘No coloureds allowed” prohibition reminiscent of apartheid? 

So please don’t blame discriminated Malaysians for being wary of national schools. Unless the Ketuanan Melayu of Umno-Perkasa & Co. is dismantled once and for all, few non-Malay parents will want his or her children to be in national school where they are treated so shabbily. 

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