BTN fails to deliver
By Neville Spykerman
SUBANG JAYA, Nov 30 — A public forum on Biro Tata Negara (BTN) will be organised by the Selangor government so the public can decide for themselves if the state move to ban its programmes is right.
Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said he was initiating the forum following criticism by Barisan National (BN) ministers who defended BTN’s programmes.
Last week, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said that BTN courses were designed to instil a sense of patriotism and that those who participated in the bureau’s courses love the concept.
Her Cabinent colleague Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar also chided DAP’s Lim Kit Siang for calling the programmes “racist”, likening Lim to a “blind man” for criticising BTN’s courses.
“Just like a blind man who does not know of what he does not see. How can Kit Siang talk of the BTN course when he has never attended it?” Noh said.
To help shed light on the content of BTN’s courses, Khalid said: “Former participants, lecturers and others will be invited to share their experiences.”
“I expect the Federal government to try to ban the forum as being contrary to the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and then people will know they have something to hide,” said Khalid.
He said if there’s nothing wrong, there would be nothing to hide and organisers of BTN programmes will be invited to give their point of view.
The date of the forum has yet to be determined.
Last Wednesday, Selangor executive councillor for education Dr Halimah Ali issued a blanket ban on BTN courses for state civil servants, employees at state subsidiaries and students at state-owned educational institutions.
The move came in the wake of a memorandum issued by young Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state lawmakers who called for a similar ban for undergraduates earlier this month.
According to the lawmakers, participants at BTN programmes are taught that PKR members were Jewish agents; that DAP was a Singapore party; while PAS was labelled a deviant movement.
They added a big part of the programme had nothing to do with nation-building or education but was an Umno and BN race-based programme where participants are indoctrinated with propaganda about “Ketuanan Melayu”.
BTN courses have been running for years, and claim to instil nationalistic values and patriotism, but are now seen as more of a propaganda unit. The courses are for university students on public scholarships and civil servants. The BTN is under the Prime Minister’s Department.
Meanwhile, Khalid said he was happy that the value of BTN is now being discussed in the open.
He said PR did not have a problem with BTN if it really was for nation building and to instil patriotism.
“But our question is with regards to the content of the programme.”
He said that according to the information they have received, BTN is not achieving its objective of instilling national unity.
Khalid said the federal government, in defending BTN, should go beyond just highlighting the purpose of the programme.
They should make public the content, as well as identify the lecturers involved and their backgrounds, he said.