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Irrational outburst from NUTP leaders

Lok Yim Pheng's outburst was uncalled for - Photograph: ABN

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P Ramakrishnan takes top teachers union officials to task for their tirade directed at those protesting against the controversial School-Based Assessment system.

Lok Yim Pheng's outburst was uncalled for - Photograph: ABN
Lok Yim Pheng’s outburst was uncalled for – Photograph: ABN

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Lok Yim Pheng’s reaction to the Voices of the Malaysian Teachers Community (Suara Guru Masyarakat Malaysia – SGMM) over their protest against the School-Based Assessment (Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah) can be described in three words: Insane, insensible, irrational.

Her outburst was uncalled for. It smacked of arrogance of power. The fact that NUTP claims to have a membership of 200,000 doesn’t give her the right to throw her weight around without any justification.

She was reacting to the proposed protest gathering organised by SGMM on Saturday, 22 February 2014 to highlight their frustration over the indifference of the Ministry of Education concerning their grievance with regard to the School-Based Assessment (SBA).

The teaching community and the general public were aghast with disbelief by her tirade which was totally unnecessary.

She retorted, “They are not a registered body. They are nothing. Who are they? Why is the press recognising them? They are not an organised body; they are a loose body and the Ministry isn’t even bothered with them” (themalaymailonline, 21 February 2014).

Yes, they are not a registered body. So what? Does that mean they have no right to speak up? It was their stand that had highlighted the serious problems associated with the SBA. It was their brave and unfaltering opposition against this system in the interest of school-children that had persuaded the Ministry of Education to suspend this new policy, which had done away with examinations.

You say that “the ministry isn’t even bothered with them”. But the fact is the ministry is not bothered about the NUTP in this issue. According to Selangor Deputy Speaker Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, “if we look at the attention this issue is getting now, is not the result of formal unions – it’s the result of informal campaigns who brought the issue to the fore.”

The Malaysian Council of School Principals president Roslan Madun, meanwhile, said he was stunned by NUTP’s attitude towards SGMM.

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“From my opinion that is a very uncalled for remark. Even the Ministry accepted the SGMM’s views with open arms. And even in his statement the Education Minister (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) said that the concerns of SGMM have been taken into account.”

In light of this, what has the NUTP to show about the outcome of their negotiations with the Ministry of Education. It is zero!
She continued,“I won’t respond to their protest because to us, if they really want to fight, they should do it the proper way. As far as we are concerned, we are negotiating with the government and we know what’s going on.”

Does she seriously know what she is talking? She says that she won’t “respond to their protest” but what is all this about? Why this verbal diarrhoea against this group if she didn’t want to respond? Shouldn’t she then have just shut up? That would have meant not responding!

You say that you “are negotiating with the government and know what’s going on”. Indeed, tell us, what’s going on that had upset all the affected teachers so terribly? What have you achieved with your negotiations? It is zero!

It is this small “unregistered body” whom you contemptuously claim “are nothing” who have successfully forced the Ministry of Education to suspend this scheme.

Education Minister II Idris Jusoh had even conceded that the government may have been overzealous in implementing the SBA system that led teachers to protest.

What you failed to achieve in spite of your mighty 200,000 membership, this small “unregistered body” has achieved. They have compelled the Ministry to acknowledge that there are problems and weaknesses associated with this scheme and consequently they have suspended this system to take another look at it in order to improve it. They don’t have 200,000 members to boast of but their sincere, persistent pursuit to correct the wrong in this scheme has paid off.

She boasts, “We represent 200,000 teachers here. We have the majority in the Peninsula. I think they’re all (there) with a political agenda. That’s why we’re not going for this. Our purpose is the workers and the teachers.”

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What “political agenda” is she referring to? Is there any evidence to support her claim that what this group is doing is all associated with politics? If you are worth your salt you shouldn’t be making outlandish claims to discredit them. Many would think that you are playing a political game to please certain quarters.

If your “purpose is the workers and the teachers” as you claim, wouldn’t you be very concerned about the suffering of the teachers affected by the SBA, and shouldn’t you have given priority to solving their genuine grievance?

Have you publically discussed this problem that is affecting millions of students and worrying their parents? They are wondering what the NUTP is doing about this problem. They are asking what the NUTP is up to by unnecessarily condemning those who are really fighting for the welfare of the affected teachers.

The man behind the protest against the SBA, Mohd Nor Izzat Johari, who is the SGMM working group chief, and two others have been transferred out of their present school.

This is clearly punishment for criticising the SBA. Mohd Nor has said so to that effect and has even written to the prime minister asking him to rescind the transfer order. He has every right to protest against his transfer which cannot be justified at all.

Not to be outdone in idiocy, the president of NUTP, Hashim Adnan, got into the act.

According to him Mohd Nor should thank his lucky stars that unlike his counterparts in some countries, he’s not getting shot for dissent.

Does he actually think that people who dissent should be shot? When we have teachers of his calibre, is it any wonder that the school system churns out unthinking and uncritical zombies! It is simply unbelievable that a unionist could say this. Is he really an educator?

A person’s human rights have been violated, and yet we have a unionist who feels that the victim of this unjust transfer should be thankful that he wasn’t shot!

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What has happened to the NUTP of yore which stood up courageously for principles and justice without fear or favour? It is so sad that the NUTP has descended to this demeaning depth! It is a disgrace even to think that they are unionists!

Even the former Deputy Minister of Education, Datuk Wee Ka Siong, acknowledges this fact. He said that in the past, NUTP would actually protect teachers against any perceived injustice instead of criticising the teacher in question.

“By convention, whatever the problems faced by teachers, NUTP will be the spokesperson to air the grievances of teachers. In this case it’s a bit strange,” said Wee.

Incredibly, Hashim states: “Look at what has been going on in other countries such as Laos, Pakistan and Syria… their (education movement and teachers) leaders were arrested and were shot and killed. That’s far worse.

“And in Malaysia, it’s only a small transfer and you want to throw a tantrum over it? What about those guys in Vietnam? We were informed of this development from the union leaders there. You’re only being transferred and you’re getting mad over it?”

Incredibly, he seems to condone this atrocity in other countries. He doesn’t condemn this as barbaric – that is what it is! He quotes them to justify Mohd Nor’s victimisation. What a cock-eyed view!

His diatribe continues: “Who asked you to organise an illegal protest? If you have the guts to do it then you have to face the music.

“We will view their actions as the actions of an individual who organised an illegal protest. Lucky thing he wasn’t arrested! Otherwise it would have been worse for him.”

This is what a certain political party would have said! It would seem that both these leaders may have their own political agenda and are out to impress their masters.

I’m reminded of Bertand Russell’s comment: “Man is born ignorant, not stupid. Education makes him stupid.”

How true in this case!

P Ramakrishnan is a former NUTP ExCo member and former Penang branch chairman.

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