I refer to a Parliamentary reply given by the Education Ministry on Oct 18, 2016 towards my question on the building of the first Tamil secondary school on Malaysian soil after 59 years of independence. The reply stated that in accordance with the provisions of Section 30 (1) of the Education Act 1996 (Act 550) only allows for the establishment of a Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) to cater for the educational needs of children of all ethnicities.
The ministry stated that establishing a secondary Tamil school as per request is nowhere in the provision of the Education Act 1996.
I wish to correct the education minister here who may have been misled, by quoting Section 30(1)
“It shall be the duty of the minister to provide secondary education in the following national secondary schools:
(a) academic secondary schools;
(b) technical secondary schools; and
(c) secondary schools of such other descriptions as the minister may from time to time determine”
and Section 31 that states for the “establishment and maintenance of secondary schools, subject to the provisions of this Act, the minister may establish and maintain any of the schools described in Section 30”.
This simply proves, without a doubt, that there is no political will by the minister and his Education Ministry, including the Deputy Education Minister in charge of Tamil schools P Kamalanathan, to even engage with the Penang state government when land has been allocated there to build a Tamil secondary school.
How can the Education Ministry supply MPs and the Parliament with such ridiculous contradictory answers on their disability in building the nations first Tamil school, when they clearly can do so. It is evident that the ministry has no intention nor plan to empower children in Malaysia to honour, save and keep their mother tongues alive, in this case, the Tamil language when there exists Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan for Chinese schools.
It is disgusting that when Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak only three days ago announced on the well-known ‘apom-balik’ holistic plan in the form of the National Blueprint for Indians for empowerment for the Indian community, when his own Education Ministry keeps passing the buck on the building of the first secondary Tamil school in Malaysia.
While he mentioned on the need for all national Tamil primary schools to have pre-school facilities, there is no mention of a secondary Tamil school.
Will Prime Minister Najib challenge unrealistic reasons given by the Education Ministry to commit and ensure that the first Tamil secondary school be built in Penang in accordance with provisions in the Education Act 1996 in his tenure as premier?
I urge the prime minister and the Education Ministry to make the building of a secondary Tamil school in Malaysia a priority, even if it means amending the Education Act 1996 as it is the moral responsibility of the government of the day to do so.
KASTHURI PATTO is DAP's Batu Kawan MP.