KUALA LUMPUR, March 5 — Umno minister Khairy Jamaluddin has suggested a revision of the country’s National Civics Bureau (BTN) training courses, saying undergraduates should be treated like adults and not taught to be blind supporters of the government.
The Youth and Sports Minister said the government agency’s courses should be more relevant with the times and students should be encouraged to hone their creative and critical thinking skills.
“We should consider them as young adults, have creative thinking and not just ask them to give thanks and be thankful to the government,” Khairy was quoted saying by Malay-language daily Berita Harian.
The Rembau MP said youths should not blindly support the government but should be able to decide for themselves if the government deserves such backing.
“We (youths) need to recognise the role of the government but not to the extent of becoming blind supporters. They should build up thinking skills that are of global standards.
“If they want to be supporters of the government, they should support because of their own will, and not be influenced by others,” said Khairy, who is also the Umno Youth chief.
BTN, a government agency tasked to instil patriotism and train Malaysia’s future leaders, has been under the spotlight in recent years for allegedly promoting racial views and spreading political propaganda for the ruling Barisan Nasional pact.
In November 2009, the Pakatan Rakyat government in Selangor banned all employees and staff members of state-linked companies, and students in state-owned institutions of higher learning from joining BTN courses.
When announcing the ban, Selangor executive councillor Dr Halimah Ali claimed that many past participants had described the courses as an “indoctrination process” by the BN government.
In a 2009 New Straits Times report, Halimah was quoted saying: “The courses promoted racist sentiments as if wanting to create rifts between the multi-racial citizens of this country. Participants were also given booklets containing various propaganda which could bring hatred towards the political opposition in Malaysia.”
But BTN and members of the federal government have denied the agency under the Prime Minister’s Department was spreading racist views, insisting that it was focused on nation-building exercises.