Sarawak PKR welcomed the statement by Minister of Rural and Regional Development Shafie Apdal to lift restrictions of non-Muslims practising their religious faith on campuses of Mara junior science colleges (MRSM) and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Sarawak and Sabah.
“I welcome and appreciate the assurance given by the Minister. Nevertheless, I will write to MRSM and UiTM in Sarawak whether there are such rules and regulations that restrict non-Muslims practising their religious faith,” said Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian when contacted.
Shafie at a press conference this morning that Mara was to withdraw or rewrite all rules and regulations that restrict non-Muslim students from practising their religious faith in educational institutions under its purview in Sabah and Sarawak.
These include the MRSM and UiTM in both states, said Shafie who also said there was no government policy on religious restrictons for Mara students.
He said if such policies exist, “there were not right” and vowed to take action on anyone curbing students from bringing the Bible or crucifix or using the college-provided transport to church, The Malaysian Insider reported him as saying.
“If there is a rule, we will withdraw it,” he said in a hastily organised press conference which was called in Kuching after Sarawak chief Minister Adenan Satem met the minister last night.
Local media reported that Adenan reportedly to have voiced his concern about religious restrictions in MRSM, which he said went against the state government’s policies and freedom of religions.
The Chief Minister had reportedly said to Shafie that such rules went against the Sarawak
On Friday, DAP said Dayak parents are concerned their children in the three MRSMs are banned from bringing bibles, home-cooked food and using college-provided transportation to go to church.
Baru earlier said religious discrimination and intolerance were unacceptable, especially in an educational institution.
He said that attitudes were formed at a young age, and discrimination such as this taught and reinforced the ugly mindset of racial superiority in some and a damaging second-class inferiority complex in others.
“It must be pointed out that MRSM is not a religious school – if it was, 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:
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, Baru said, that Section 51 of the Education Act 1966 allowed 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 cognisance 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,” he said.
The authorities responsible must remove these repugnant rules; otherwise they could be challenged in a court of law.
“Speaking for Sarawak PKR 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,” he warned.