Kua Kia Soong | Jan 2, 09 4:29pm
Lim Lian Geok, acknowledged as the soul of Malaysian Chinese education, had a well-known rallying cry to the community which was: “The best antidote to sabotage is to construct!”
Throughout the 50s and 60s, Malaysian Chinese education faced an incessant sabotage from the Umno-led coalition and Lian Geok paid the price of adhering to his principles by losing his teaching permit and even his citizenship.
Later, Lim Fong Seng, the father of the Unified Examination Certificate and leader of the Independent Chinese Secondary Schools Movement, ignited the campaign to construct the Chinese-medium Merdeka University.
In the 80s and 90s, Fong Seng was leader of the Malaysian Chinese Civil Rights movement and he too paid a high price for holding firmly to his principles, by losing business opportunities and suffering detention under Operation Lalang in 1987.
Inspiring leaders such as Lim Lian Geok and Lim Fong Seng held firm to their principles. And they stood out because they walked the talk. They had a vision of upholding and developing mother-tongue education into a complete and first-class educational system in the country.
Leaders such as Fong Seng inspired confidence among all sections of the community. Above all, he welcomed intellectuals and professionals into the movement on an inclusive basis. His vision for the Merdeka University and his defence of our civil rights through a two-party political system was unflinching.
Construct, construct and reconstruct!
In the last 10 years, we have struggled hard against sabotage and obstacles to uphold these same principles and construct New Era College to its present stage of development. Financially, we are in the strongest position we have ever been with more than RM1 million in accumulated profits.
We attained ISO 9001 certification in 2007 through our inspired quality management system. From 148 students and three departments in 1998, we have reached a total student population of 1,700 and eight departments today. We have more than 80 highly-ranked universities in both the East and West as our international partners. Our graduates have done us proud in these foreign universities and many are pursuing postgraduate studies.
Most precious of all, we have built a wonderful, committed and united team through this effort. The glory of the last 10 years goes to each and every member of staff in this college. I thank them for their dedication, selfless sacrifices and making this mission a success in these 10 years.
We have been through thick and thin – the fund raising campaigns, the obstacles from the authorities not just in the LAN (National Accreditation Board) approval of our courses but in the suppression of the launching of the Sepang campus by the authorities in 2001.
Sabotage, sabotage and more sabotage
Shockingly, in the last two years, we have witnessed sabotage from the most unexpected source – the Dong Jiao Zong leadership itself!
(Dong Jiao Zong, which set up New Era College, is umbrella body of the Chinese education movement and is made up of Dong Zong, comprising Chinese schools’ boards of directors, and Jiao Zong, comprising Chinese schools teachers.)
We have watched the black operation against the former chief executive officer of the Dong Zong secretariat, Bock Tai Hee by the Dong Zong chairman, Yap Sin Tian (left) in 2006. This will be revealed in Bock’s memoirs, as well as in mine, soon to be published.
The more serious consequence of this black operation was the departure, in droves, of the most committed, talented young educationists who had been groomed by Bock to be the future leaders of this movement.
There we have observed Yap’s coarse methods of using divide-and-rule and interfering in the CEO’s work to meet his ultimate objective of getting rid of Bock and emasculating the whole Dong Zong secretariat.
While the secretariat under Lim Fong Seng was the pulse, the strength and conscience of the whole Malaysian Chinese community, Yap has today done a service to Umno and the Barisan Nasional by destroying the spirit and independence of the Chinese education movement.
This whole ‘New Era controversy’ of 2008 has been an elaborate confidence trick carried off by Yap and his associates in his second black operation – to get rid of me. Their method was simple – to create doubts on the financial situation of the college.
The marvel of it is that there are some in the community, and even so-called progressives, who have fallen for his cheap trick. For this irresponsible and costly act, Yap and his cohorts will have to pay the price in court since I will be suing them for defamation.
History will judge this on the same scale as the dirty tricks of Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal after which he was impeached. Can the Malaysian Chinese community allow this kind of immoral act be undertaken by leaders of the Chinese education movement? After the Chinese Associations’ Committee of Enquiry into the New Era College controversy reports their findings, these Dong Jiao Zong leaders must not only apologise but also resign for misleading the community throughout the controversy.
Thus, the ‘achievements’ of Yap these three years have been considerable. He has succeeded in doing what Umno and the BN have failed to do in the last three decades, namely, to get rid of Bock and me from the Chinese education movement.
As at the Dong Zong secretariat, Yap has also succeeded in driving away the most committed and talented activists from New Era College. The new enrolment for 2009 has dropped drastically and donors have withdrawn their aid to the college.
The most important withdrawal is the RM12 million indoor stadium and classrooms at the existing basketball/tennis courts. That is why Wu Jiancheng, the Confucian independent secondary school headmaster, called him “Bai Jiazi” - meaning he has sold off the family jewels!
Destruction of New Era has already begun
Through their sabotage in casting doubt on the management of the college, Yap and his cronies have already done irreparable harm to the college. They have further destroyed the principles of the college even before I leave New Era:
1. The whole New Era controversy exploded because Yap ordered our heads of departments out of the June 14 meeting of the Board of Governors. This was a breach of the democratic practice of not only the college but also the whole Chinese education movement.
2. Yap, in his role as chairman of the Board of Directors, has shown contempt for the board by failing to schedule any meetings since August 2008, despite the need to approve urgent college agenda. Even though the Board of Governors is the only college body recognised as accountable by the Higher Education Ministry and therefore could have easily obtained an injunction against the directors, they chose not to, in deference to veteran Chinese educationist Sim Mow Yu’s appeal.
3. Yap has nonetheless, now taken away the checks and balance from the college governors by concentrating the power to sign cheques in the hands of the directors of the parent company. He has destroyed a democratic practice in the college first established in 1998. There is now no transparency and accountability. Three years ago, I prevented Yap from using the Endowment Fund of the college for the purposes of the parent company, Dong Jiao Zong Higher Learning Centre Bhd.
4. Yap has violated the autonomy of the campus by overriding the CEO of the college and demanding a head of department to “show cause” as to why he sent an email to the press. As in Dong Zong, Yap has interfered in the running of the college.
5. Yap and his cronies have, for the first time in the history of the Chinese education movement, compromised its cherished political independence, through their actions regarding the college. First they allowed the MCA, through the deputy minister of higher education, to intervene in the New Era controversy with various offers to me and the heads of department, saying that the government has the right to intervene.
The lawyer he has employed to sue Confucian secondary school headmaster Wu Jiancheng is an MCA lawyer. His apologist in the parent company’s Higher Education Committee is Cai Weiyan, another MCA man. But their historic compromise was seen in their joint caper with the MCA leaders and then Umno menteri besar Mohamad Khir Toyo just before the March 8 general elections.
Yap has yet to account for Sepang project
Under Yap’s leadership, the Chinese education movement has compromised its political independence. Just before the March 8 general elections, Yap and the other Dong Jiao Zong leaders signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) on the Sepang project. It was arranged by the top MCA leaders with the presence of the then Selangor MB and the boss of Hong Leong, Quek Leng Chan.
This MOU stipulated that the contract on the Sepang land for the New Era campus would be signed within three months. It was obviously an attempt by the Barisan Nasional with the co-opt of Yap and the other Dong Jiao Zong leaders to try to swing the Chinese votes to the BN during the March 2008 general elections.
It is now nearly a year and Yap has still not accounted to the Chinese community on the Sepang project. We have exposed the unreasonable conditions in the Sepang contract.
We have put forward a more practical ‘City Campus’ project which Yap has refused to discuss. Our development plan around Kajang is popular among stakeholders as it increases our accessibility, deepens our community involvement and requires a lighter investment from the Chinese community. Yap must explain why he does not want to discard the Sepang project. Does he have any personal interest in this project?
All that Yap can show for his three years as Dong Zong chairman is his successful eviction of Bock and me from the secretariats of Dong Zong and New Era College. He has failed to exhibit the qualities of a Chinese education movement leader. His sabotage of independent Chinese secondary school Duzhong and New Era College is unforgivable and thus his days as Dong Zong leader are numbered.
2009 sees the beginning of a movement to ‘Save the Chinese Education Movement’. We want leaders who are visionary, principled, who cannot be compromised by the ruling coalition, and who have an inclusive attitude to all who can contribute to the movement. Corrupt leaders and saboteurs of the movement must be toppled and be held to account for their misdeeds.
Dr KUA KIA SOONG is former principal of the New Era College.