Soi Lek slams Nazri for backing Dong Zong

(The Malaysian Insider) – MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek blasted today his Umno political ally Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz for supporting the demands of Chinese-language educationists without understanding fully the real issues that has seen the Chinese party at loggerheads with vocal vernacular education lobby groups.

“Minister in the Prime Minister’s department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz seems to have said that the demands of Dong Zong is fair and let us hope that he will not sing a different tune in Cabinet.

“Nazri is forever playing to the gallery and is fond of commenting without understanding the real issue contained in the memorandum,” Dr Chua (picture) said in a scathingly-worded media statement.

Yesterday, 500 members of the United Chinese School Committees Association – better known by its Chinese name Dong Zong – had demonstrated outside Parliament while it was in session to push for eight demands it said must be met to resolve the long-standing state of vernacular Chinese education in the country.

Nazri, who is Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, had met with the group and accepted their memorandum, remarking that the demands were “not wrong” as Dong Zong was fighting to protect their mother tongue but which had raised the MCA’s ire.

The de facto law minister who is also in charge of parliamentary affairs had also pledged to raise the subject at the next Cabinet meeting.

The Dong Zong demonstration yesterday – codenamed the ‘926 rally’ – appeared to be the culmination of a long-standing stand-off between educationists fed up with the MCA’s failure to resolve various education issues central to the Chinese community.

In their memorandum, Dong had highlighted staffing shortage in Chinese schools, namely teachers proficient in the Chinese language; the government’s chronic failure to accredit the globally-recognized Unified Examination Certificate (UEC); the difficulty faced by Chinese school board members seeking official registration and the lack of funds to develop Chinese schools.

The clash over vernacular education appears to have hurt the party’s standing with Chinese voters crucial in the next general elections due soon.

In Election 2008 and past by-elections, Chinese voters have been increasingly casting their support for the opposition parties signaling growing skepticism at the MCA’s ability to speak up and protect their community interests.

The BN’s mainstay, Umno, has also been seen to be appealing directly to Chinese voters, leapfrogging its Chinese coalition partner, in a bid to claw back dwindling support in key national polls that is threatening its hold on federal power.

However, Dr Chua insisted today that his party has succeeded in renewing its commitment to the Chinese under his leadership, pointing to some gains towards vernacular education.

“UEC holders are also now accepted for admission into teachers training colleges and entitled to the National Higher Education Corporation (PTPTN) study loans.

“The top 50 UEC holders are also given scholarships by 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) to pursue their higher education,” the former Health minister and lawmaker said.