In the 44 years since it began, the National Civics Bureau has evolved into a racial and propaganda machine of sorts. The Biro Tatanegara may
be in its last days as the Government plans to review its relevance in multiracial Malaysia.
The writing is on the wall for BTN
PETALING JAYA: The days of the National Civics Bureau or Biro Tatanegara (BTN) seem numbered with the Government to look into whether it should keep or abolish the controversial agency.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said BTN and several other government bodies had been turned into political tools by the previous Barisan Nasional government.
“All this will be studied, we may maintain or abolish it. We found that there are many agencies which have been set up not (to benefit) the government but Barisan; but they use government money to pay salaries,” Dr Mahathir told a media conference after chairing the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia supreme council meeting.
Dr Mahathir, who is Pribumi chairman, was responding to a question on the fate of BTN following the Government’s move to abolish several other taxpayer-supported bodies, namely the National Council of Professors and the Special Affairs Department (Jasa).
Set up in 1974 to promote patriotism, BTN has come under fire over the years after numerous complaints about it promoting racial hatred.
The Pakatan Harapan Government in its election manifesto has pledged to dissolve the agency which it said had become a political agent for Umno.
PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar said the abuse of BTN by the previous government was possible grounds to shut it down.
“How many propaganda and brainwashing agencies do we require? BTN has not done much to inculcate a sense of patriotism or belonging,” she said.
The bureau’s director-general Datuk Ibrahim Saad could not be reached for comment.
BTN, which is under the Prime Minister’s Department, conducts courses for civil servants, government scholarship holders and selected students from colleges and universities.
According to DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, the budgets for BTN multiplied 10-fold in the 1990s (RM200mil) compared to the 1980s (RM20mil), and continued to increase.
From 2010 to 2015, the allocation for BTN totalled some RM365mil.
Veteran journalist Datuk A. Kadir Jasin said it would not be surprising for the bureau to be shuttered.
“If BTN performed a political task and if the Government has already decided to close down other (similar) agencies such as Jasa, then I would imagine that it’s not hard to predict that BTN would or should suffer a similar fate,” said Kadir.
The Pakatan election manifesto stated that Umno and Barisan had abused government programmes to spread narrow ethno-religious politics to influence youths.
“The Pakatan Harapan Government will dissolve the bureau, which over the years had become a cheap political agent for Umno,” it said.
PKR Youth leader Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, who has called for a shutdown of BTN, recounted his own experience with it.
He was a student when he attended one of the BTN camps back in 2003.
“I found the whole affair racial and political in nature. (There were) racial, religious bigotry and hatred against PKR, PAS, and DAP mainly.
“BTN was formed for political purposes. It is outdated. Schools, hospitals and universities need money, so let’s prioritise,” he said.
MCA publicity spokesman Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker said a thorough review of BTN should be conducted before a decision is made.
“There are institutions we can save instead of just being shut down. We need to ensure they are independent and free to pursue positive progressive ideas,” he said.
Ti said a number of institutions started out well but was hijacked along the way by the political masters.
“A lot of this happened during Dr Mahathir’s time, so it is good for him to remedy these issues,” he said.
Umno information chief Tan Sri Annuar Musa said the Government could do what it wished with the bureau.
“My view is very simple; they have the mandate, they are free to do it,” said Annuar.
Parti Rakyat Sarawak president Tan Sri James Masing said the functions of BTN needed to be reviewed in order to reflect Malaysian society.
“The multiracial nature of our society must be strengthened and reflected in every nook and corner of our nation. No one race can claim ownership of this nation,” he said.
Sarawak United People’s Party Youth chief Michael Tiang said any agency that promoted racism and intolerance should be reviewed or even abolished. “Racism and intolerance are never part of the Malaysian spirit,” he said.
Souces : The Star by razak ahmad, sharon ling, hemananthani sivanandam, rashvinjeet s. bedi, hanis zainal, n. trisha
BTN course was a nightmare, says participant
PETALING JAYA: She penned down her experiences attending a team-building course with Biro Tatanegara (BTN) in her diary. And it was not pleasant.
Sahana, as she wanted to be known, recounted how one of the lecturers had picked on her physical appearance.
During one session, the lecturer even poked fun at some of the participants as a way of engaging the class.
“He would say things like ‘ah yang pendek tu, bangun (you, the short one, stand up).”
“I as seated next to an Indian girl when he pointed at my direction. When
I turned to the girl next to me, he said ‘ awak lah, yang hitam, besar tu’ (you, the dark and big sized one) to indicate that he was directing the question to me,” said Sahana, who is now a communication executive.
Sahana, 36, was a first year college student then. Her college had informed the
students that they had to attend a series of lectures and team building
exercises at a camp in Johor.
“We were looking forward to it because we were there with our peers and it was a
long trip away from home. For some of us, it was our first excursion out
of state so we were excited,” she said.
However, the excitement did not last long. The lecturer’s comments embarrassed
Sahana, who cried in class but others including the lecturer just
laughed at her.
“I already had this complex about being a plus size, so naturally, when remarks like that were made, it really hurt me.
“It was a big hit to my self-confidence,” she said, adding that she felt that being dark skinned and large was a big sin.
Sahana wondered why physical appearance and skin colour were highlighted at
the camp that was actually meant to teach participants values and instil
Sahana also found insensitivity when it came to food being served as beef was given to them.
“Not that I am complaining but it made me wonder back then; how a Hindu,
Buddhist or vegetarian would survive when beef was the main dish
served?” she asked.
A parent wrote to The Star to complain that her son was “hounded” for being Indian.
“Throughout the five-day course, he and other Indian participants were constantly
hounded about the actions of the Hindraf movement.
“His friends and him are not supporters nor sympathisers of the group. Yet,
they felt disappointed at the way the instructors kept harping on the
issue at every turn and opportunity,” the mother wrote.
Another parent echoed the sentiment, saying that participants were repeatedly
reminded of the “social contact” in the formation of the country.
“Throughout the five days of the course, participants are repeatedly told not to
question Malay rights and so on,” said the parent, adding that even
Malay friends of the family were upset by the programme’s content.
There, however, were praises for the programme.
“I must say that there were many great people there, especially the
facilitator in my group. I have heard many unpleasant things about it
and I don’t understand why.
“During my stint, I learnt many things from my facilitator, not only of a better
understanding of Malaysia but also the spirit of a Malaysian.
“We, the non-Malays, really appreciated him as our facilitator. We never
felt aggrieved or hurt. Through him, we learnt unity, not disunity,”
wrote a participant.
Another participant wrote of learning more about Malaysia at the programme.
“I learnt more of our own country while having a great time throughout the
activities and group-learning sessions filled with good values,” the
How many propaganda and brainwashing agencies do we require… BTN has not done much to inculcate a sense of patriotism or belonging. – Nurul Izzah, PKR vice-president
If the BTN performed a political task and if the Government has already decided to close down other (similar) agencies such as Jasa (Special Affairs Department), then I would imagine that it’s not hard to predict that BTN would or should suffer a similar fate. – Datuk A. Kadir
Jasin, veteran journalist
I found the whole affair racial and political in nature. (There were)
racial, religious bigotry and hatred against PKR, PAS, and DAP mainly. –
Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, PKR Youth leader
There are institutions we can save instead of just being shut down. We need to ensure that they are independent and free to pursue positive progressive ideas. – Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker, MCA publicity spokesman
‘Move to shut down BTN unreasonable’
PETALING JAYA: While the National Civics Bureau or Biro Tatanegara (BTN)
has drawn flak over the years, there was an effort to improve the body.Umno member Datuk Lokman Noor Adam, who was involved in BTN, said complaints against the bureau had prompted the Government to set up a panel about three years ago to seek improvements.Lokman, who was on the panel, said new modules were then drawn up for BTN.He hit out at the current Government, which he claimed was out to shut
down all agencies perceived to have strengthened the position of Barisan
Nasional.“I am sure that their next target will include Jakim (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia), Mara, Tekun (Entrepreneur Development Centre), Mara Junior Science Colleges, Universiti Teknologi Mara and others,” said Lokman.
Former Kepong MP Dr Tan Seng Giaw, who was also on the panel to rebrand
BTN, said the bureau needed to represent the country’s plural society.“This is 2018 and yet there are Malays, Chinese and Indians whosay racial things. So I told the panel – let’s try to reduce this.“Let’s emphasise tatanegara, which means the discipline of a nation. Let’s make this whole thing non-racial.”He said he was not sure whether his suggestions were subsequentlytaken up, adding that other panellists also gave some good ideas.Dr Tan said BTN should only be closed if efforts to change it failed.
“If we are to shut down everything we don’t like, then why not close ministries and everything else?
“If it is impossible to revive the BTN, then it is reasonable to shut it down. But this is not a question that it cannot be revived but of getting the policy right,” said Dr Tan.
Controversial: The BTN has been accused of promoting racism, bigotry, disunity and intolerance in the name of
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