Dong Zong may see long battle ahead


Will the attempts to topple the problematic Dong Zong chairman Yap Sin Tian resolve the crisis that has paralysed the Chinese education group or will it take the fight to a whole new level?

Joceline Tan, The Star

THE split in Dong Zong has reached the point of no return as a rival group prepares to oust controversial leader Yap Sin Tian (pic) whom it claims has made the once-all-powerful Chinese education body the laughing stock of the community.

Yap, who is Dong Zong chairman, may find himself out in the cold by Tuesday as a result of what some have termed a coup d’état attempt against his leadership.

The rival camps which have been dubbed Team A (those aligned to Yap) and Team B (those against Yap) have been slugging it out almost daily in the Chinese papers over the last few months.

Team B has called for a special meeting on Tuesday with the aim of dissolving the Dong Zong central committee and electing a new line-up to take control of the organisation. It claims to have the required quorum to do it.

Its aim is to get rid of Yap and his deputy Chow Siew Hon who is widely seen as the man controlling Yap.

Supporters of Team B claim that the crisis can only be resolved if these two leaders are removed.

Dong Zong insiders said that Chow is so influential that Yap often turns to him for approval before making decisions during meetings.

Team B’s attempt last year to hold an extraordinary general meeting to elect a new line-up failed because Yap refused to acknowledge its re­­quest.

Yap is not taking things lying down and has slammed the move as being against the Dong Zong constitution.

Team B’s special meeting requires a quorum of 17 central committee members. Yap is said to be working hard behind the scenes to deny Team B the quorum and if he succeeds, the so-called coup d’état will fizzle out.

All this I-do-you and you-do-me drama has been playing out in the Chinese newspapers.

The two teams have even placed fullpage advisements in the newspapers to explain their point of view and to attack each other.

The Chinese newspapers appear to be warmer towards Team B al­­though they give equal space to both sides.

The Chinese intelligentsia who dominate the Chinese vernacular press have largely turned against Yap whom they think is more concerned about his position and status than the future of Chinese education.

Sin Chew Daily’s leading columnist Tay Tian Yap in a strongly-worded article told the “two grandpas” (Yap and Chow) to resign so that younger and more sincere leaders could take over. The Chinese intelligentsia feel that the Chinese education movement is stuck in a rut.

The movement is also seen as dominated by “purists” who are unable to take heed of the changes taking place in the country, such as the mushrooming of private and international schools and the demand for an English-speaking workforce.

“We are very disappointed with the Dong Zong leadership,” said Tay.

Nanyang Siang Pau carried a frontpage report yesterday that seemed to be aimed at embarrassing Team A.

According to the report, Yap and Chow have formed a RM1 company to take over the New Era College, a tertiary institution set up with funds raised by Chinese education leaders and which was once the pride of the community.

However, the pair’s attempt to take ownership of the college has been rejected by the college’s board of directors who did not like the idea of a community-owned college falling into private hands.

The report was obviously aimed at questioning the motives of Yap and his righthand man ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.

Yap has become some sort of parody and will go down in history as the man whose personal agenda led Dong Zong astray and brought down its image.

Outsiders see him as an extremist because of his inability to accept other people’s point of view.

Dong Zong was once like a sacred cow whose control over the community was so complete that even Chinese political leaders would kowtow before it.

But all that is now in the past and people have started to ask questions and even to make fun of the group.

Dong Zong leaders have lost the respect of many Chinese intellectuals.

The current crisis had its roots in Dong Zong refusing to allow students from the newly set-up Chong Hwa Secondary School in Kuantan to sit for the crucial UEC or Unified Examination Certificate which is controlled by the movement.

Yap claimed that the school did not meet the standards required for the UEC. Not everyone agreed and that was the start of the rift.

But all that has fallen by the wayside and it is now about a clash of egos and personalities.

Things have snowballed into a complicated mess that has been des­­cribed as the worst disaster in the history the Chinese education movement.

“I have no words to describe him. I cannot believe there are people who are so obsessed with power and position,” said Lim Lian Geok Foundation chairman Goh Kean Seng who brought Yap into Dong Zong.

However, Yap who is very anti-Barisan Nasional still has supporters especially among DAP leaders who had danced around him in the run-up to the general election.

They are still with him although the music has stopped.

Those familiar with Yap’s character said he will not go even if Team B succeeds in booting him out. He will probably take the matter to court.

Those who imagine they can bring him down had better think again because he said recently that, “100 poisons cannot kill me”.