BTN — Between true education and indoctrination

By Azly Rahman

I agree we must give credit to those working hard to “improve the psychological well-being of the Malays” and for that matter for any race to improve its mental wellness. This is important. This is a noble act. The question is: in doing so, do we want to plant the seeds of cooperation and trust– or racial discrimination and deep hatred? Herein lies the difference between indoctrination and education. Herein lies what the work of Malaysia’s Biro Tata Negara is about.

These days, the idea of Ketuanan Melayu is going bankrupt, sinking with the bahtera merdeka. It works only for Malay robber barons who wish to plunder the nation by silencing the masses and using the ideological state apparatuses at their disposal. In the case of the BTN it is the work of controlling the minds of the youth. The work of BTN should be stopped and should not be allowed anymore in our educational institutions. It is time our universities especially are spared of counter-educational activities, especially when they yearned to be free from the shackles of domination. Look at what has happened and what is still happening to our institutions with the University and University Colleges Act and the Akujanji Pledge.

Over decades, many millions of Malays and non-Malays have not been getting the right information on our nation’s history, political-economy, and race relations. History that is being shoved to us or filter-funneled down the labyrinth of our consciousness is one that is already packaged, biased, and propagandized by our historians that became text-books writers. History need not be “Malay-centric”. Special rights for all Malaysians should be the goal of distributive and regulative justice of this nation, not the “special rights of a few Malays”. History must be presented as the history of the marginalized, the oppressed, and the dispossessed — of all races. We toil for this nation, as the humanist Paramoedya Ananta Toer would say, by virtue of our existence as “anak semua bangsa … di bumi manusia”. Malaysia is a land of immigrants.

In this regard we can learn from the former British colony called America. Whatever the shortcomings may be, America is a land of immigrants and still evolving. Even a Black man or a woman can become president. This is what America conceives itself to be and this is what Malaysian can learn from. Can a non-Malay become a Prime Minster is he/she is the most ethical of all politicians in the country?

No one particular race should stake claim to Malaysia. That is an idea from the old school of thought, fast being abandoned. Each citizen is born, bred, and brought to school to become a good law-abiding and productive Malaysian citizen is accorded the fullest rights and privileges and will carry his/her responsibility as a good citizen. That is what “surrendering one’s natural rights to the State” means. One must read Rousseau, Locke, Voltaire, and Jefferson to understand this philosophy. A bad government will not honor this — and will fall, or will sink like the bahtera merdeka.

The history of civilizations provides enough examples of devastation and genocide as a consequence of violent claims to the right of this or that land based upon some idea of “imagined communities.” We must teach our children to make history — a history of peace amongst nations. This must be made into a new school of thought: of “new Bumiputeraism” that encompasses all and do not alienate any — because life is too brief for each generation to fight over greed.

The eleventh hour of human existence and our emergence in this world has brought about destruction as a consequence of our inability to mediate differences based on race, color, creed, class, and national origin. Each ethnic group thinks that it is more socially-dominant than the other. Each does not know the basis of its “self”. Each failed to realize its own DNA-make up or gene map.

Life is an existential state of beingness, so must history be conceived as such. Nationalism can evolve into a dangerous concept– that was what happened to Europe at the brink of the two World Wars. It happened in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Indonesia when Suharto fell. I argue that we must live evolvingly in the “historical presence of historical constructions”. The past and the future is in the present.

Back to BTN.

Courses devoid of critical treatment and sensibility and ones that retard student thinking — such as “Kenegaraan” — in our universities are designed to tell our mind to live in an imagined past. BTN is playing this dangerous game of blind nationalism still passing down packaged information that do not take into consideration the complexities of globalization and the promise of multiculturalism. We need to offer courses such as Multiethnic Malaysia that will have students aspire to think like multiculturalists and help this nation evolve better.

The ministry of education higher education combined has hundreds of experts — many overseas trained and have tasted the “spirit of multiculturalism” and the “beauty of intellectual freedom” in their classrooms abroad — who ought to have engineered a paradigm shift to help dismantle indoctrination agencies such as Biro Tata Negara.

But where are the voices in the wilderness of our public universities — those who should be speaking up against ‘Ketuanan Melayu or Ketuanan this or that race’? Why are many of these experts, instead of fighting for radical changes to affect radical-peaceful structural changes, are making big decisions to further advance the cause of racism? One-dimensional thinking prevails — the thinking that does not allow diversity of ideas and failed to develop cross-cultural perspectives. Ideas move nations but indoctrinations remove intelligence. Political masters– however corrupt to the core they are — dictates the work of our academicians.

Whoever writes history and turn that into say, BTN propaganda, controls the future (or at least they think they do). We must question what is taught during the sessions or during any history lesson; fundamentally:

  • Whose history are we studying?

  • Is it meaningful to me?

  • Who wrote this history? Why? Who benefits?

  • Who gets included and excluded in this history textbooks?

  • Who’s the hero — who’s the villain?

What I want to see is a stop to the systematic and ongoing stupefication of the Malays and the non-Malays and to let them be free from being run-down emotionally by boot camp facilitators who make a living humiliating people. We have a new generation of best and brightest Malaysians to educate. As an educator I have worked with thousands of them. These are extremely creative individuals who enjoy being challenged at the most respectable and intellectual levels — not through indoctrination methods such as those used in BTN camps. They want to be fed with more questions and not be shoved with BTN-type of answers. We cannot afford to turn term them into docile beings while at the same time we holler the slogan “human capital” or modal insan the world over. It will be a “modularly insane” human condition if we continue to capitalize on human docility.

The Biro Tata Negara as an indoctrinating institution was conceived by “intellectuals” who themselves are trapped in their own cocoon or glass coconut shell of “wrongly-defined” Malay-ness and in a paradigm that teaches a poor understanding of Malaysian history. These intellectuals are running around in our public universities promoting a more sophisticated and pseudo-intellectual version of racism. Inciting racial sentiments in classroom and boot camps is big business nowadays — profits made in the name of patriotism. But who’s monitoring the trainers?

Education is not about insulting one’s intelligence and instilling fear in our children. This is what the creators of BTN need to learn. In short, the indoctrinators need a good education on how not to indoctrinate. “Melayu ‘kan hilang di nusantara … ” if we allow the dumbing down of Malaysians to continue.

Progressive parliamentarians must discuss this serious matter concerning the organization’s deliberate attempt to promote disunity and to further fertilize the seeds of racism, at a time when we need to come together as Malaysians in order to face humanity’s greater problem such as the food, oil, and water crisis that will plague us as human beings — at a time when we must focus on constructing a new republic of virtue that will be founded on transcultural ethics, responsive and reflective politics, and a social-democratic-based economic system that do not tempt and feed human greed of the things they do not need. Our Asian despotic brand of capitalism continues to destroy the very foundation of our existence and our moral fibre. It is greed — big time — that brought down the National Front.

Through the work of the Rakyat, Divine intervention helped speed up the process of removal of Greed disguised as political parties in power. That’s the metaphysical interpretation of March 8, 2008.

We are not running Hitler Youth camps in Malaysia. We must not even come close to setting up one.

  1. #1 by boh-liao on Saturday, 28 November 2009 - 10:39 am

    Don’t worry, Umno/BN smarter than Nazi
    No extermination concentration camps here 2 get rid of nonMalays
    As MMK said, we want nonMalays here – they pay highest tax
    Someone has 2 work n support Malays
    What’s de point 2 b AP king when no one 2 buy cars – cannot lah, must hv suckers
    What’s de point de entire nation filled with tuan only n no serfs – cannot b like this
    Those takdir 2 b tuan must continue 2 b tuan
    That’s Y BTN is impt 2 remind ppl of their status, so said Umno
    Don’t worry if 1M’sia will eventually b like Dubai World
    Spend, spend, spend first n jiak, jiak, jiak
    Later can always rely on nonMalays working as maids, nurses, drug mules, dvd resellers, gigolos, social escorts, GROs, Ah Long runners
    NonMalays not complaining, happily accept their fate n always vote Umno/BN in GE
    M’sia truly boleh n democratic, a model nation

  2. #2 by Cinapek on Saturday, 28 November 2009 - 11:11 am

    PKR is planning a national roadshow to expose BTN. You can bet that the Govt will use their Gestapo PDRM to stop it. Every roadshow will be denied a license with the excuse that it will creat racial disharmony and any attempt to proceed without it will be deemed illegal and shut down forcefully with water cannons if need be.

    PKR might also want to make sure all your witnesses especially the ex BTN staff are well protected or they will end up disappearing like Bala or at the very least have molotov cocktails thrown into their house. PKR might also want to make sure all the evidence that these witnesses have are kept in very safe place. Or else they will suffer the same fate as those evidence that Altantuya’s father gave to the honorary consul who in turn handed them to the police.

  3. #3 by k1980 on Saturday, 28 November 2009 - 12:56 pm

    Why isn’t Comrade Ronnie photoshopped to sit between Bagind and Altantu in Paris?

  4. #4 by taiking on Saturday, 28 November 2009 - 1:01 pm

    Errr Mr Azly Rahman sir. I think you are kinda wrong. The point is btn works. And it works well sir. Uh look sir. I mean WE HAVE ANGKASAWAN FOR GOD’S SAKE!

    … an emotionally charged retort by a budding umno supporter.

  5. #5 by k1980 on Saturday, 28 November 2009 - 1:07 pm


    But…but sir, where is our blady space rocket needed to carry that angkasawan to space? Purchasing a ticket for a seat in another country’s spacecraft only classifies that worthless bum as a tourist. Otherwise all the passengers in airliners would have to be called “pilots” just as all passengers in buses, taxis and trains be classified as “drivers”

  6. #6 by taiking on Saturday, 28 November 2009 - 2:20 pm

    Huh? Wot? %$$#@* You mean our angkasawan took a ride? And. And we suckers spent 20m for him to take a ride? PHARK. Err, apology sir. Pardon my language sir.

    … the emotional budding umno supporter was visibly disillusioned.

  7. #7 by frankyapp on Saturday, 28 November 2009 - 3:26 pm

    Umno/Bn is pretty smart,using psychological and ideological indoctrination education to put fear and the death to muslims malays race basing on when non-malays rule the country.Umno has no option to lose,hence it takes anything to win.The can of worms was exposed now.can we not demand action to charge BTN for fanning racism and disunity among the peaceful multi races,multi regilions and cultures of our country.NR should not pretend anymore,the DPM is pretty irresponsible for defending BTN.The behaviour of BTN is the behaviour of Umno and these charactors are worst than Ah longs.May God have mercy on these umnoputras and warlords and save the vast majority of the ordinary malays kampong folks.

  8. #8 by apuneneh on Sunday, 29 November 2009 - 11:44 am

    Azly Rahman, this reminds me of revolusi mental. Also reminds me of “I have a dream”

    Guys like you will get tremendous support from all races as a true Malaysian. Time is ripe for people like you to play a greater role. You can actually shape the destiny of this beloved nation, if
    you keep burning bright. Will we see the emergence of a new breed of Malaysian intellectuals like you, who will seize the chance for “Change we Must”? Many revolutions are spearheaded by bright ideas that can be shared by all to forge a common destiny. If it can be shared by all, the strength is there, like a bundle of chopsticks, strong. UMNO belongs to the dark ages. It is shivering in its pants as it is being left behind. There is no BN anymore. They are like single chopstick, easily broken, and had been broken one by one by the corrupt and evil forces, cruelty and the endless greed and lack of common decency and humanity.

  9. #9 by Ramesh Laxman on Tuesday, 1 December 2009 - 9:26 pm

    Dear YB LIM,

    Brain drain is better than brain in the drain.

  10. #10 by mlk on Wednesday, 4 August 2010 - 1:26 am

    my daughter has just returned from the week long btn course and at 19years old she has been asked to hate the fact that she is a Chinese born in Malaysia in the 4th generation as being never ever going to be equal in rights to her Muslim friend who is only 2nd generation and furthermore to never question for that right in the many generations to come? therefore she ask me, whether she should regards Malaysia as her motherland? if not then what the heck to ask her to sing negaraku respect negaraku when this country is not ours at all??

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