Penang deputy CM claims khat move to be blind acceptance of ‘misguided BN policy’

A man creates khat art in Balik Pulau, Penang August 6, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
A man creates khat art in Balik Pulau, Penang August 6, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 7 — Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy wants the ruling Pakatan Harapan to explain its khat introduction for vernacular primary schools, claiming the decision to be blind acceptance of a “misguided” policy leftover from the past Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

He said if the measure to integrate khat in the primary school syllabus was mooted during BN’s time, then there was no reason for it to be blindly implemented by the current government.

“Why a misguided BN policy measure has been accepted uncritically?” he asked in his Facebook posting late last night.

He expressed his disbelief that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whom he described as a modernist, wanted to “force” khat on students without understanding the consequences of such a measure in a divided and polarised society like Malaysia.

He said the Education Minister Maszlee Malik had lost credibility when he “messed up” the matriculation admission and went on to chide non-Malays for not giving equal opportunity to Malays in the private sector.

“Having lost credibility he has the temerity to say that khat has nothing to do so with Islam,” he added.

Ramasamy, who is also the state Economic Planning, Education, Human Resource Development and Science, Technology and Innovation Committee chairman, said the proposal to introduce khat in primary schools was without consultation with interested parties.

He said any policy should be introduced after consultations with the public.

“In the case of khat, it is the other way around,” he said.

He pointed out that there is a now a hue and cry by the non-Malay educational groups for the khat policy to be deferred.

“In terms of the actual definition, there is nothing Islamic about khat calligraphy or for the matter in learning Chinese or even Tamil calligraphies,” he said.

He suggested that khat be introduced in a non-mandatory or voluntary manner to boost the calligraphy art.

“Such an approach would be much more appealing and non-obtrusive,” he said.

This morning, Ramasamy added to his posting on khat by stating that there was nothing wrong to introduce any form of calligraphy in the school curriculum.

“I am just wondering how is khat going to assist the Bahasa Malayu syllabus in the primary schools if khat might not be fully integrated with the subject matter,” he asked.

“The difference between jawi and khat calligraphy and the fact that the latter might be only allocated a few hours of the school time do not mitigate the worst fears expressed among certain sections of the Malaysian population,” he added.

He said students are being overloaded with all kinds of requirements now.

“I wonder why khat has been prioritised as something as an integral to the Malaysian cultural heritage,” he said.

He then slammed some politicians for worsening the khat polemics by stressing on the importance of khat as a link between the present and the future.

Ramasamy was commenting on the recent controversy surrounding the government’s intention to introduce khat calligraphy to Standard Four students as part of the Bahasa Melayu subject starting next year.

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