Penang deputy CM clarifies no Christian prayers at mission school nor ban against Muslim doa.
The Penang government will leave it to the police to investigate the case of the Methodist Girls’ School (MGS) allegedly forbidding its Muslim students from reciting doa (prayers) during the school’s Outstanding Students 2019 ceremony on Sept 27.
Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P Ramasamy said as numerous police reports had been lodged, it was best to let the cops investigate the matter.
He said had met the school’s board members to seek an explanation on the matter and related issues.
Ramasamy said he was told that no prayers were said, and that there had only been a speech on unity.
A fact-finding team commissioned by the Penang state government also said today that there were no prayers, only a “unity speech”.
The team said its investigation, which included conversations with the board of governors and the Parent-Teacher Association of the MGS on Anson Road in Penang, said the plan was for Muslim and Christian teachers to deliver a “unity speech”.
But the Muslim teacher who was supposed to give the speech could not deliver the speech, leaving only the Christian teacher to continue with the presentation.
Apparently, the Muslim teacher who was in charge of preparing the speech did not prepare it on time, resulting in only the Christian representative ending up giving her speech, which called for understanding and cooperation in a multi-racial and multi-religious society like Malaysia.
Announcing the findings today, Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy said the unity speech was held in response to a trend among the majority Muslim students of buying food only from Muslim-owned stalls at the school canteen.
“But the school canteen is managed by a Malay Muslim. The lack of mingling and subtle segregation of students of various races and religions have proved to be worrisome to the school.
“In order to overcome the division, the school decided to go for a change by proposing to have a unity speech for Christians and Muslims at its school prize-giving day,” said Ramasamy, who is also the state education exco.
He said the event was a success, as it brought students of different races and religions closer.
However, a police report was lodged by a Malay Muslim group saying the school allowed Christian prayer but denied the Muslim one.
This led to 10 police reports lodged against the school, eight in Penang. Five people have been questioned by the police, nine more are expected to be called.
It prompted Education Ministry director-general Amin Senin to issue a stern warning against the school, threatening it with punishment.
The school’s headmaster and some members of the board were summoned to clarify the matter at the state education department.
Ramasamy said the school board believes it has done no wrong.
“No Muslim prayers have been denied in the school. They are willing to cooperate with the police without fear.
“They just want the authorities to understand why they organised the unity speech – to bring teachers and students closer to one another,” Ramasamy explained.
Speaking to the press at the office of Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow in Komtar, Ramasamy said there was nothing wrong even if the school had recited Christian and Muslim prayers.
“Missionary schools are not exactly national schools, they were established long before national schools made their appearance.
He said there are circulars that acknowledged the special character, tradition and ethos of these schools that were established in the country during the colonial period.
“All depending on the student population, it is perfectly alright for the school to have Christian and Muslim prayer recitals when the occasion demands.
“The curriculum might be the same, but the tradition, the different kinds of emphasis on teaching and the importance of Christian prayers distinguish these from the national schools.
“Which is why my advice to the Education Ministry and the Education Department was that they should find out the details of the case first, do not punish the school without finding out the details of the case,” Ramasamy said.
He added that he would meet the acting state Education Department director to clear the air on the issue.
He revealed that he was already suspicious when the issue first came to light via a purportedly dubious blogger known to sensationalise and twist certain issues with a racial slant.
He said he will leave it to the police to investigate the whole issue and reveal the truth in the end.