Pakatan Harapan de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim has urged the government to take stern action against illegal tahfiz schools.
This is following the deadly Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school fire in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 14, which he notes was the 212nd fire involving a tahfiz school since 2015.
"I urge the government to take more serious and comprehensive steps, including by announcing the number of tahfiz schools that have not registered with authorities, the number of tahfiz schools operating on premises not approved by local governments or the fire department and steps taken to ensure that such incidents do not recur,” he said in a statement today.
Anwar, who is presently in Sungai Buloh prison, had his statement realeased through his party.
Anwar, who is also PKR de facto leader, also welcomed the Selangor government’s move to conduct a safety audit on all tahfiz schools in the state.
The Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school fire claimed the lives of 21 students and two teachers.
Just a month earlier, The Star had quoted the Fire and Rescue Department saying that there had been 211 fires reported at tahfiz schools nationwide between 2015 and 2017.
“Studies revealed that many fires that occurred at religious schools were due to a lack of awareness of fire safety and construction done without approval from the relevant authorities, including the Fire and Rescue Department,” the report said.
Following Thursday’s fire, the police had arrested seven suspects aged between 11 to 18 years’ old on suspicion of setting the school ablaze as revenge after being mocked by the school's students.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak announced a RM30 million allocation to upgrade tahfiz schools nationwide.
Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Noh Omar had also ordered safety checks to be conducted on tahfiz schools while the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry is offering counselling services for victims of the recent fire.
In his statement today, Anwar expressed hope that the arrest of the seven suspects would shed light on how the incident had taken place but said safety precautions must still be put in place.\
“Although an element of mischief is suspected, safety standards must be followed.
"We cannot afford to be callous, especially when it involves the lives and future of our children,” he said.