GEORGE TOWN, Oct 2 — Sekolah Kebangsaan Methodist did not forbid its Muslim students from reciting their prayers contrary to claims, Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy said today.
He also clarified that no religious prayers were said during the school’s Outstanding Students 2019 ceremony recently.
“There were no prayers during that event, neither Christian nor Muslim, there was only a unity speech,” he told a press conference at Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s office in Komtar here.
Ramasamy said the school board decided to have unity speeches on that day as it had noticed some subtle segregation among students of different races and religions at the school.
“The lack of mingling and subtle segregation among students of different races and religions has proved to be worrisome to the school officials, both to the management as well as the school board,” he said.
He said the school board decided to introduce unity speeches by Christians and Muslims during its event to promote unity.
In the September 27 event, a Christian member of the board gave a unity speech, while a Muslim member who was supposed to give a unity speech failed to do so as the person did not prepare it on time, he explained.
He said the unity speech by the Christian member had only called for understanding and cooperation in a multi-racial and multi-religious society like Malaysia.
“The programme as a whole was a success as the intention was to bring about some level of unity or togetherness among the young students of different races and religions,” he said.
He said the school board was surprised when police reports were lodged against it with allegations that it had allowed Christian prayers while denying Muslim prayers being held in a school event.
The Education Ministry also issued a warning to the school and threatened to punish it.
“Which is why my advice to the Education Ministry and the Education Department was that they should find out the details of the case first, do not punish the school without finding out the details of the case,” he said.
Ramasamy went on to point out that the primary school is a mission school even though it comes under the Education Act.
“Mission schools are not exactly national schools, they were established long before national schools made their appearance,” he said.
He said there are circulars that acknowledged the special character, tradition and ethos of these schools that were established in the country during the colonial period.
“All depending on the student population, it is perfectly alright for the school to have Christian and Muslim prayer recitals when the occasion demands,” he said.
He said the curriculum for both mission and national schools may be the same but the tradition, the different kinds of emphasis on teaching and the importance of Christian prayers distinguish these from national schools.
Ramasamy, who is also the state education committee chairman, said he has sent a message to the acting director of the Penang Education Department to schedule a meeting.
“I will be arranging to meet him to discuss this issue,” he said.
He said he was already suspicious when the issue first came to light via a purportedly dubious blogger known to sensationalise and twist certain issues with a racial slant.
He said he will leave it to the police to investigate the whole issue and reveal the truth in the end.