Our special guest of the day came along with his wife to join us for our Saturday chats. Truthfully, I only had a glimpse of the latest report from Pemandu on the Government Transformation Programme (GTP). The 254 pages worth of report seemed too much of a daunting read on a Saturday morning.
Edmund Bon chaired the meeting and gave the regular introduction to UndiMsia!, following which the session was quickly passed on to the Vice Deputy Chairman of Pemandu. We were briefly introduced to several key people also working on the team. We had acronyms thrown around like NKRA, GTP, ETP and NKPI. Various numbers and statistics were also mentioned. In retrospect, the opportunity to meet the Pemandu team gave more significance to the organisation that I knew only through newpaper printouts – the one with the little logo that embodied the Jalur Gemilang. In my opinion, it was great that Idris Jala and his team decided to join us for our Saturday chats.
It was clear that 2 hours was insufficient to deliberate and discuss about national matters that ranged from education to crime. Even so, there were several issues that were presented both directly and indirectly during the entire session which were on the minds of many who were present.
Firstly, some had the opinion that PPSMI was a step backwards for the Malaysian Education System. Should the system cater to the urban schools that were comfortable with the English language as the teaching medium or would there be a greater benefit if the subjects were taught in the Malay language? Another participant brought up a bigger question: what has Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka done as the body to uphold the Malay language? Were these efforts sufficient? The former question was tackled by Idris, although the same cannot be said for the latter. The fact that rural schools were struggling seems to be an adequate reason to use a medium of instruction that they were comfortable using, thus empowering the learning process. After all, the urban schools have the resources, both in terms of teachers and teaching material, to adapt to this change unlike the rural schools.
Secondly, the popular issue of the affirmative action (also known as the “quota”) was discussed with Idris Jala. The whole idea of meritocracy cropped up when someone from the crowd questioned the ability of the economy to compete in the international market, since a competitive environment was lacking domestically. Idris explained that issues are either polarities to be managed or ones which had a definitive solution. In this case, the issue of affirmative action was the government’s response to a polarity that needed to be managed. Malaysians will always constitute a society of diverse racial backgrounds. It was clear that this issue was treated with great care and political correctness.
There other prominent issues that were brought up during the short discourse were crime and the current efforts by the Government both Federal and State to combat urban poverty.
Some may say that the whole thing was just a meet and greet event. However, I think it was more than that. It was the opportunity to activate those who were present, especially the people who were dropping by UndiMsia! for the first time. Looking at the crowd, I feel heartened that there are still Malaysians who care.
If you still care, there is a summary on the GTP on their website (www.pemandu.gov.my). For something more exciting than staring at words on the screen, you can drop by Pemandu’s Youtube page.