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In The Malay Mail dated March 5, Umno minister Khairy Jamaluddin has suggested a revision of the country’s National Civics Bureau (BTN) training courses, saying undergraduates should be treated like adults and not taught to be blind supporters of the government.

I, myself have never been to any of BTN’s courses. However, a few years back, a friend of mine who was working for a government agency and was dating a lovely Chinese lady received a directive from his superior to attend a BTN course.

Upon returning from the course held somewhere in the state of Pahang, we went for our weekly coffee session and he shared with me his experience about the course he attended. He mentioned, “The course made me racist. I feel that the other races are not thankful enough for being in Malaysia. We should show them that we are the boss and they better respect it.”

I was shocked.

This came from a person whom I had known since I was 10, had zero racist streak in him and I must highlight that he professed his love to his (then) Chinese girlfriend every day (and night, almost).

My other friend who was with us was not surprised because he heard the same thing from his other friends who attended one or more of those courses. Apparently, BTN is known for brainwashing the participants by masquerading as an agency tasked to instil patriotism and train Malaysia future leaders.

The closest brush I had with BTN was when I was in secondary school, a substitute teacher for Sejarah put the map of Malaysia on my classroom’s whiteboard, and told the whole class that the Malays sacrificed Tanah Melayu for Malaysia. He said that our nation was supposed to be land of the Malays, but we tolerated and accepted ‘them’ and changed the name of our beloved land from Tanah Melayu to Malaya and later, Malaysia.

(Yes, this was years before Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) came out with a ‘scientific study’ claiming the existence of Malay genetics could be traced back to 30,000-40,00 years earlier compared to the Chinese and the Indians.)

Honestly, at that time, I bought it. There was a sense of pride came rushing over me and for a good week or two, I looked at my non-Malay friends differently, in a not so good way. Thinking that I was above them. Fortunately, I got over it when I had to go to them for help with my Mathematics exercise (or was it to chat about the latest high school drama that was happening that week?)

Inflicting hate and polarisation

Back to BTN. Are these allegations true? If they were, the time, energy, funds (paid by the taxpayers) and efforts that are being used to inflict hate and further causing racial and religion polarisation should be properly channelled to encourage patriotism, inspire unity, and promote toleration and togetherness among Malaysians.

The suggestion by our Youth and Sports Minister to revise BTN training courses and encourage critical thinking skills should be welcomed. I, too, agree with the Rembau MP when he said that youths should not blindly support the government but should be able to decide for themselves if the government deserves such backing.

I was also under the impression that KJ admitted BTN has a must-have-syllabus on giving thanks and being grateful to the government.

BTN should be a delightful course to educate the participants about our beloved country, to remind them of our colourful history, to make patriotism cool and to show how proud we are to be Malaysians.

Instead of shoving one-sided information to our students, similar revision or reform should be applied to our current education system as well, say by removing the political element in our already too far politicised education system? Well, that is another story.

DYANA SOFYA MOHD DAUD is political secretary to YB Lim Kit Siang, MP of Gelang Patah.

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