KUALA LUMPUR: Aug 20, 2008 By SIM LEOI LEOI
A question on national integration veered dangerously into a heated exchange on Malay rights in Parliament on Wednesday after DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang (DAP - Ipoh Timor) commented on the lack of a festive mood in the run-up to Merdeka.
Deputy Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Teng Boon Soon had told Datuk Mohd Jidin Shafee (BN - Setiu) that the national integration programme had been successful when Lim stood up for a supplementary question.
Pointing to the lack of a "festive atmosphere" 11 days before Merdeka, he asked if this could be due to recent talks about "Malay supremacy and rights" by certain parties in the country, particularly Umno Youth.
"Doesn't this show that efforts to achieve national integration have failed?" he asked.
In reply, Teng said everybody should work towards national unity, especially politicians who must take care not to instigate any group.
As Lim tried to field another query, this brought the backbenchers' wrath on him - including from Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (BN - Pasir Salak) and Datuk Lilah Yassin (BN - Jempol).
"Don't always challenge the bumiputra all the time!" shouted Tajuddin while Lilah was heard telling Lim that "this is not China."
Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia later brought the situation under control, who commented "how could the people be expected to unite like this?"
Coincidentally, the next question, which was fielded by Minister in Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, was on achieving national integration despite the existing bumiputra policies.
Later, Minister in Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Amirsham A. Aziz told Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting (BN - Pulai) that as at July this year 22 companies had had their operating licences with Petronas suspended for not adhering to certain conditions.
"Eleven of these companies are owned by bumiputras," he said.
Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Noraini Ahmad also told William Leong Jee Keen (PKR - Selayang) that as at June this year, 47,910 graduates had registered to find jobs under the ministry's electronic labour exchange.
"Out of this, 41,813 are Malay graduates, 1,403 Chinese and the rest Indians. Most Chinese and Indians however prefer to use job recruitment services from the private sector," she said.