7 FEBRUARY 2015
I am disappointed that the matter of the ban on non-Islamic activities in the MRSMs has reappeared. This issue was raised last year but the principal of MRSM Betong at that time had said that they did not practice such discrimination. How shocking that the current principle had said that the ban had been in place for several years.
Such practices teach our young that religious discrimination and intolerance are acceptable - they must be if they are practised in an educational institution, a place where we send our future leaders for learning. Attitudes are formed at young ages, and discrimination such as this teaches and reinforces the ugly mindset of racial superiority in some and a damaging second-class inferiority in others.
It must be pointed out that MRSM is not a religious school – if it were, the administrators would be fully within their rights under Article 12(2) of the Federal Constitution to make the rules for Muslim pupils as they see fit. However, as MRSM is not a religious institution and it is open to non-Muslim pupils, the ban is unconstitutional. Specifically, it contravenes Article 8, which provides for Equality for all persons, and Article 11 for Freedom of Religion. Specifically, section 12(1) of the Constitution states:
(1) Without prejudice to the generality of Article 8, there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the grounds only of religion, race, descent or place of birth –
(a) in the administration of any educational institution maintained by public authority, …
It should be noted that s 51 of the Education Act 1966 allows for the provision of religious teaching in a religion other than Islam by the Governors of a government-aided educational facility to the pupils of that institution (but such provision is not to be paid for from moneys provided by Parliament). Clearly this provision was included in cognizance of the rights of Malaysians to equality and freedom of religion. Parents of non-Muslim students in MRSM are not even asking for the provision of religious teaching by MRSM – they merely want their children to be given the freedom to practice their faiths in the school, as is their right to do so.
It is obvious that the drafters of the rules for MRSM were ignorant of the laws of this country, and those who administer the rules are equally ignorant. The authorities responsible must remove these repugnant rules, otherwise they can be challenged in a court of law. Speaking for PKR Sarawak and myself, we are prepared to commence legal action against MRSM if after this statement, we find that these rules are still enforced in Sarawak.
It is unfortunate that institutionalised religious discrimination has spread to schools in Sarawak. We must stop this scourge before it destroys the religious and racial harmony that we take so much pride in. The Federal Government has so far failed to provide superior education for Sarawakians. On the contrary, they are helping to destroy what we hold precious in Sarawak. It is appropriate at this time to again call for the Sarawak Government to reclaim the purview and control of Education from the Federal Government.
ADUN N70 Ba’ Kelalan