The bureau that started it all..

.. Of course, I’m talking about the BTN, or the Biro Tata Negara, or the National Civics Bureau.

For quite some time now, the issue about BTN being a machinery to ‘brainwash’ the general public has been brought up. Horror stories of how students told that one race is superior over another, of how certain students were given ‘warnings’ to be careful of other races, and the like.

Personally, of course I have no idea whether or not it is true.

However, as I’ve come to understand it, our Prime Minister Najib had made a decision, or rather, the Cabinet made a decision not too long ago, that they would ‘revamp’ the structure of BTN, as it did not gel with Najib’s ‘1Malaysia’. From an article dated Nov 30:

The cabinet has agreed to revamp the content of the controversial Biro Tata Negara (BTN, or National Civics Bureau) programmes to fall in line with the prime minister’s 1Malaysia concept.

Speaking to reporters in the Parliament lobby today, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz said the decision was made so that the curriculum will be ‘inclusive’ rather than divisive.

Asked if this vindicates critics, he replied: ā€œI don’t know what allegations were made. But I know that the curriculum now should be inclusive to be in line with what PM wants – 1Malaysia. If you only want the course(s) to be for one racial group, then it’s not 1Malaysia.ā€

I think that sort of got everything unstuck. Here I thought, “So finally they acknowledge the fact that BTN has been divisive.”

But seriously, things are starting to look very very messy. We have here another excerpt from another article dated Dec 1:

[Nazri] also admitted that the programme was used to instil confidence in the Malay community so that they had nothing to feel inferior about.

Sometimes it was used to support certain individual to probably become leader of the party… that was done before,” he said.

“What I am trying to say is that the module before was to instil confidence in the Malays and now it is to instil the module of 1Malaysia… How can you have 1Malaysia when the course is for Malays and you don’t have courses for other communities, so it is against 1Malaysia,” he added.

Dr Mahathir has a different opinion, from article dated Dec 6:

There is no need to revamp National Civics Bureau (BTN) training modules as in the current form, they were fine for instilling the patriotic spirit among Malaysians, said Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

No need to revamp…I think it is better to retain the modules,” he told reporters.

Nazri (again!) has this to say to Dr M, from article dated Dec 7:

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz has branded former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad a ‘racist’ for saying that there was no need to revamp the National Civics Bureau (BTN) training modules.”I know Dr Mahathir commented on patriotism and all that, yes, I agree on patriotism but not only for the Malays. It’s for all.

“You must remember that during his time when he was the prime minister, he was talking about (how) we must all think as Malaysians […] now that he’s not (the) prime minister, you read his blog, it’s bloody racist.

Dr Mahathir (this is starting to become something like a ping-pong game between the both of them, and through the media no less!) responds, from article dated Dec 8:

The former premier is peeved with Nazri for describing the 84-year-old politician as a racist over his stand with regards to the National Civics Bureau (BTN) issue.

When prodded for a response at a function this afternoon, Mahathir, who is still an Umno member, fired: “I must be a racist if Nazri says I am racist. Don’t ever say that I am not. He knows everything. He belongs to a party which is racist… which is Umno.”

“Umno is a party perkauman and is meant only for Malays and nobody (else) can join. So he (Nazri) is in a racist party but says he is against racism. So he should resign from the party,” he added.

From the same article as above, Nazri fires back:

That is the most stupidest statement that I have heard in my life,” he told reporters in Parliament. “It only confirms what I said was right.”

“When you want to talk about forming the party, he (Mahathir) was involved in forming the party. That is not my problem, that’s his problem. I only joined the system as it is,” he added.

Continuing the tirade, the minister said: “If Umno is a racist party, he was president of a racist party, so he is a racistlah. The argument does not make him less of a racist.”

*If I may say so, this is the ‘most stupidest’ exchange I’ve heard (or rather, read, in this instance) in my life.

Muhyiddin, our Deputy Prime Minister, decides to defend Dr M, from article dated Dec 9 (today):

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that it is rather extreme to label former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad as a racist.

“So, to label him as a racist is rather extreme. He (Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Nazri Aziz) is my friend too but I don’t know how it (labelling Mahathir) could have come about. Under the country’s political situation today, many people can misinterpret,” he told Malaysian journalists in Tokyo yesterday.

He said it would be better if everyone would adopt the ‘talk less’ approach.

“Ideally, we should not be seen as debating openly. I feel there is no need to debate or enter into polemics on government agencies such as the BTN (National Civics Bureau),” he said.


Far from being able to laugh or say “Up yours!” to them, I have this vague feeling of utter disappointment.

I’m no supporter of UMNO, or Barisan Nasional for that matter. This much should already be clear to most who bother to read what I have to say. So under such circumstances, where UMNO is threatening to tear itself into pieces, a typical reaction *might* be to be jubilant about it. Here we have two members of UMNO, practically yelling out for the whole world to hear, that UMNO is a racist political party.

My feeling of disappointment, I guess, stems from the fact that our country’s leaders comprise of such characters.

Whether we support them or not, whether we like them or not, whether we acknowledge them or not; like it or not, these are the people ‘up there’ at the moment. And like it or not, we (the general Malaysian public, “we”) get dragged along for the ride.

Maybe all this is needed. For change to happen, maybe something like this has to first occur.

In a way, I’m glad that the BTN issue is being brought up. There were too many dodgy things about it to start off with. The more informed the public is, the better off we are.

But in some weird (you might even call it perverse if you so wish) way, I almost wish the UMNO/BN politicians could have handled this slightly better. After all, whether or not we get that 2-party system going on, or whether or not we manage to swing Pakatan Rakyat to be the government of the day during the next general elections, we still need people of calibre in the places ‘up there’.

Otherwise, what the hell are we doing ‘down here’?


2 Comments on “The bureau that started it all..”

  1. justmy2SEN says:

    You said
    In a way, Iā€™m glad that the BTN issue is being brought up. There were too many dodgy things about it to start off with

    Can u please elaborate me in details on the supposedly dodgy things you’re talking about?

    I’ve been to BTN but it seems to me that people who did no go to BTN seems to know better about it, dodgy or about irony eh

    ps: I’ve always regarded you as a level headed chinese blogger who always try to be as fair as u can frm the way u answer my previous comments, but i really hope you don’t just jump on the bandwagon without checking the facts or at least talk to more than 1 person who has experienced BTN in the first place.

    pps: Only TRUE racist call others racist akin to pot calling kettle black
    What I mean by ‘dodgy’, actually, is just that there’s been too many things being said about it. And also because there are so many differing comments about it, even coming from the government itself. Like how Nazri and Najib now say that it needs revamping because it was only catering to one race, and how Muhyiddin and some other Ministers are saying that it doesn’t need a revamp because it has always been fine. ‘Dodgy’ in the sense that there are so many things that we don’t know about BTN.

    So when I said, I’m glad it was brought up, it’s because this is a chance for things to get cleared up. Whether it is racist or not. Whether it serves the purpose of instigating racial hatred or real patriotism. Whether it integrates or segregates. Because these issues exist, it feels ‘dodgy’. Or maybe, ‘vague’ would be a better word?

    Hope I’ve answered your question?

  2. JMD says:

    Hi M!

    Thanks for dropping by just now šŸ™‚

    Have a good weekend!



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