PETALING JAYA - Umno leaders must stop making conflicting statements like calling for the abolition of vernacular schools if it wants to attract the support of the Chinese, said Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
He said Umno must accept the political reality that Chinese support is crucial if it wants Barisan Nasional to continue leading the Government.
"There is a conflicting situation if there are calls by some for Chinese vernacular schools to be abolished but at the same time we are asking how to increase support from the Chinese community.
"It is not possible to increase support from the Chinese community when in the same breath, we are also seeking to close Chinese vernacular schools," Najib said in an interview with Utusan Malaysia in the run-up to Umno general assembly.
Najib, who is also Barisan chairman, said there was no benefit for the party if its actions resulted in reduced support for Barisan.
"We don't want a lose-lose situation when facing the next general election as this will lead to difficulties," he said.
He noted that many Umno leaders have even requested allocation for Chinese schools in their constituencies as there were many Chinese voters in their areas.
On calls for a single stream school to improve unity, Najib said no prime minister before him had ever attempted to close down vernacular schools as it is a commitment given since Merdeka.
"If it is an understanding, translated into law, made into policies and included into Barisan manifesto and maintained in the National Education Blueprint until 2025, the reality is that we cannot break this promise,"
However, the Prime Minister said he would be agreeable to any other suggestions on how to improve unity among the people.
"For example, I constantly urge Chinese schools to give more attention towards mastering the national language.
"It is a tool towards integration," he said, adding proper command of the language would lead to better understanding among the races.
He agreed that the introduction of a KPI for the national language and patriotism would prevent the communities from living in their own group.
In a related development, Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has advised Umno delegates at the general assembly to give constructive criticism and to be sensitive towards the feelings of other races.
He said delegates should not be emotional when discussing sensitive matters, including the Chinese vernacular school issue as it involved the unity between races.
"The issue of multi-stream schools should be seen as how it could unite the various races," he told a news conference at the bonafide friends of Umno event, at PWTC, here, yesterday.
The relevance of maintaining vernacular schools is expected to be among the most hotly debated topics during the Umno General Assembly.