Putrajaya accused of allowing free speech selectively

(FMT) – An educationist who would have addressed the now-cancelled Dong Zong congress has accused the government of partiality in allowing free speech.

“It seems that preference is given to one group and others can’t speak up,” said Johan Ariffin Samad, a former CEO of Sabah’s Institute for Development Studies.

He told FMT he was disappointed that the authorities had prevented a discussion on a significant issue although it was to be held in a private hall.

The congress was to be held today and it was supposed to discuss the government’s decision to include the teaching of the Jawi script in the Malay syllabus for schools.

However, Dong Zong, a Chinese education group, called it off after police obtained a court order against the meeting. It would have attracted about 1,000 representatives from school boards, parent-teacher associations and alumni groups.

Johan alleged that the teaching of Jawi and khat calligraphy had been “politicised, racialised and radicalised” and “people are no longer free to express themselves and are under constant threat if their opinions and concerns differ” from those that are officially sanctioned.

“Education concerns all and not just one particular race,” he said. “This does not augur well for Malaysia Baru.”

One meeting that will go ahead as planned is the National Jawi Congress organised by a group calling itself Gabungan Seni Khat Action Team (Sekat).

“We were wondering if the police had taken an injunction against us as well, but luckily they didn’t,” Sekat national secretary Arun Doraisamy told FMT.

“We would like to ask all Malaysians to attend the congress and understand the real issue at hand. This is not a racial issue. This is a national issue, and it must be resolved with dialogue, information and facts, not emotions.”

The Sekat congress will be held at the Crystal Crown Hotel in Petaling Jaya tomorrow.

In the speech he prepared for the Dong Zong meeting, Johan said pushing unpopular policies with strong religious and racial overtones did not bode well for the country.

He also said the debate on Jawi and khat had wasted time and energy which could have been put to better use, such as in implementing the 2013-2025 Education Blueprint, improving Malaysia’s QS University World rankings and enhancing its PISA world rankings in science, mathematics and reading.