Yap, Wee on a collision course

Dong Zong’s threat to demonstrate outside the Parliament on Sept 26 may have little to do with the Chinese education cause and everything to do with the personal agenda of its president Yap Sin Tian.

They admit that Yap is committed to Chinese education but his combative nature, his inability to work with others and his overwhelming ambition has made him too controversial for the good of the Chinese education cause.

Joceline Tan, The Star

ONE of the most controversial figures to ever lead Dong Zong, Yap Sin Tian, is on a collision course with Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong.

Yap, known for his contentious nature, is taking his disagreements with Dr Wee to Parliament, so to speak.

He is organising a rally in front of the Parliament on Sept 26 to demand the resignation of Dr Wee on the grounds that the deputy minister has failed to settle Chinese education issues.

He is also hoping that the Parliament protest will be a repeat of the huge rally in Kajang earlier this year to protest the shortage of Chinese teachers. Yap had used the occasion to humiliate Dr Wee who attended the event.

But Chinese education activists are wary about Yap’s motives this time around. It is quite clear by now that Yap’s issues with Dr Wee have more to do with his personal ambitions than the cause of Chinese education.

Everyone knows that Yap, who is desperate for another term as Dong Zong president, may not be able to do so because of a technical clause and he is blaming Dr Wee for that.

Moreover, they think that Yap has gone overboard in demanding Dr Wee’s resignation.

“Some people agree with Yap but others say that it is unreasonable to ask Dr wee to resign. They think that Dr Wee is sincere about the Chinese education cause and he is trying his level best,” said Tang Ah Chai, CEO of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.

The Chinese educationists are also unhappy that Yap has equated his Dong Zong position with the future of Chinese education.

He is said to have portrayed his problems with Dr Wee as a “life and death struggle” for Chinese schools in Malaysia.

“That is too much for us to swallow. Chinese schools will go on with or without him,” said a retired headmaster.

Dong Zong, the national body for the boards of governors of Chinese schools and its sister organisation Jiao Zong, which represents the Chinese school teachers, used to be a very powerful force under the umbrella body of Dong Jiao Zong.

But Dong Zong’s image has suffered under Yap, whom Chinese NGOs view as a polarising figure and difficult to work with.

Yap’s reputation languished after his very public and acrimonious feud with the academic staff at the New Era College (NEC), the flagship college run by Dong Zong, which resulted in the ousting of the NEC principal Dr Kua Kia Soong.

The dispute caused divisions in the Chinese school movement and has yet to heal. But Yap’s biggest humiliation was when a student marched up to him during the NEC graduation ceremony and gave him a bloody nose in front of a packed hall three years ago.

Earlier this year, there was a lot of adverse publicity about the string of degrees and PhDs that he claimed to have. He did not respond and the matter died down.

However, the Chinese language papers, which give him a lot of coverage, have stopped referring to him as “Dr Yap” and that says a lot.

Yap was eyeing a fourth term as Dong Zong president and that was how his problem with the Education Ministry started.

Anyone vying for a seat in the Dong Zong leadership must be on the board of a Chinese school.

Each school board has to comprise three members each from the five main bodies associated with the school, namely, the parent-teacher body (PIBG), alumni, trustees, sponsors and the government.

The list of board members has to be approved by the state education department.

Yap used to be the board chairman of SJKC Jinjang Utara but he quarrelled with the PIBG and the school alumni over almost everything from the running of the school canteen to what to do after the school was hit by flash floods.

Things grew so dire that the PIBG and alumni refused to have anything to do with him and, earlier this year, they formed their own 15-member board of directors.

Yap then came up with a rival list of board members but could not fill the remaining six slots with PIBG and alumni members who had boycotted him.

Both lists were submitted to the state education department, which accepted the full list instead of Yap’s incomplete list.

Yap was furious and placed the blame on Dr Wee.

He evidently felt that Dr Wee should have made an exception for him.

Unless Yap is able to parachute into another school board elsewhere, he will be out in the cold when his term as Dong Zong president expires next year.

Many think that this is basically what the rally on Sept 26 is all about – it is Yap’s personal vendetta against Dr Wee.

They are concerned that Yap is exploiting the Chinese education cause in such a brazen manner.

They think that it is wrong but seem powerless to stop him.

“This is a tragedy for the Chinese education cause. He said he is doing this to save Chinese education but it is actually to save himself.

“He is using us to bring down Wee Ka Siong and it is not right. I don’t think he is fit to be president,” said the retired headmaster.

Even Jiao Zong has refused to have much to do with him.

For instance, although Jiao Zong sent representatives to the March rally in Kajang, they refused to co-organise it with Dong Zong.

Yap is not without his support in the movement and the Chinese politicians in DAP and PKR are standing behind him.

But some Chinese activists are reluctant about being dragged into what they regard as Yap’s personal agenda.

They admit that Yap is committed to Chinese education but his combative nature, his inability to work with others and his overwhelming ambition has made him too controversial for the good of the Chinese education cause.