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No place for Biro Tata Negara in new Malaysia

LETTER | It is heartening to see the process of trimming the fat of the administration and the efforts to rejuvenate our education system in our “New Malaysia” has begun.

One of the questionable institutions to consider excising is surely the Biro Tatanegara (National Civics Bureau), or BTN because, from recent controversies and exposes, the BTN is an anathema to the need to nurture critical and creative thinking among Malaysians.

BTN is an agency set up in the Prime Minister's Department purportedly “to nurture the spirit of patriotism and commitment to excellence among Malaysians, and train leaders and future leaders to support the nation's development efforts”.

For years under the NEP, it has been an open secret that Malay students and civil servants have to go through “indoctrination” sessions by the BTN. Through the years, BTN's programmes have been reported to be explicitly promoting Ketuanan Melayu (Malay dominance) and unabashedly partisan to the governing BN.

In 2009, the Selangor and Penang state governments even prohibited their state civil servants, employees of state subsidiaries, and students at state-owned institutions from attending BTN courses because they were seen as racist indoctrination.

In late 2009, many allegations of racism and political propaganda surfaced in the online press. Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, then assemblyperson for Seri Setia state seat in Selangor, claimed that the BTN camp he attended was "racial and political in nature," with trainers telling attendees that Malays require affirmative action and criticising the opposition PAS as "deviationist".

Amirudin Shari, the assemblyperson for Batu Caves (now known as Sungai Tua), claimed that "participants are indoctrinated with propaganda about 'Ketuanan Melayu' and external threats". Another participant claimed he was taught that the Chinese were "the Jews of Asia," and part of a conspiracy to topple the government.

During the altercation between critics and defenders of BTN, then minister in the PM's Department, Nazri Aziz interjected:

“Don't think that people outside do not know about the syllabus based on patriotism for Malays... They know what the syllabus is all about so who are we to say that it did not happen? You want to lie? You make people laugh. I mean there are people who attended the courses who came out very angry. There were many instances of the use of words like Ketuanan Melayu. It is ridiculous... Do they want to say that Malaysia belongs only to the Malays and the government is only a Malay government? Should only the Malays be given the spirit of patriotism? Other races are not patriotic about their country?”

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.