Despite being a Chinese, Lee made English the main language in Singapore and shut all Chinese and Tamil schools.
There is an interesting posting by Zainuddin Maidin a.k.a. Zam in his blog regarding how one-time Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was opposed to Chinese education and Chinese schools. (READ HERE http://zamkata.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/lee-kuan-yew-saya-saja-boleh-ajar-orang_22.html)
Lee was reported to have said that only he is able to teach the Chinese, meaning keep the Chinese in check. This was mentioned in the book “Men in White: The Untold Story of Singapore’s Ruling Political Party”.
“After 1965, we had to make a decision on the common language. If we made Chinese the common language then Chinese culture would be dominant and it would have led to a breakup in society,” said Lee.
1965 was when Singapore left Malaysia. The Chinese then demanded that Lee make Chinese the official language of Singapore. Lee, however, made English the main language and all other languages were to be given equal status. Lee then closed down all the Chinese schools, colleges and universities and replaced them with English medium institutions. Lee also closed the Tamil schools.
Lee then summoned the Chinese language activists for a meeting and warned them that he would not allow Chinese language to be exploited as a political issue. When the activists persisted, Lee arrested them and deported those who were Malaysian citizens.
It is surprising that Malaysian Chinese are quite militant about Chinese schools and Chinese education whereas in a ‘Chinese’ island state like Singapore they cannot get away with half of what they get away with in Malaysia.
The Chinese condemn Umno as a racist party for not meeting all their demands while Singapore will not give them an inch and yet Lee Kuan Yew is not regarded as a racist or anti-Chinese.
The Chinese lament about why Malaysia can’t be just like Singapore. If Malaysia did become just like Singapore that would be the end of Chinese schools and Chinese education in Malaysia.
I suppose the Chinese should be grateful that Umno is not like PAP and Najib Tun Razak is not like Lee Kuan Yew. If not there will be only one type of school in Malaysia.
I wonder if they have Chinese schools in Japan or does everyone have to learn Japanese to get an education in Japan?
Roslan Bistamam is an FMT columnist
Article first published on Free Malaysia Today on Nov 23, 2014.