KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 28 — Lawmakers from PKR today joined a chorus calling for a review for schools nationwide to hold a “Palestine Solidarity Week” from October 29 to November 9 amid growing unease over the kind of activities that will be carried out.
The group of three MPs and nine assemblymen expressed their concerns and emphasised the need to ensure that schools and public institutions remain free from elements of hatred and violence.
“We understand the MoE's desire to instil important values and principles in our students but we believe it is difficult for the MoE to effectively monitor the Palestine Solidarity programme to ensure that it achieves its objectives without inadvertently promoting sentiments of resentment and violence.
“We also call upon the MoE to take stern action against anyone found in violation of MoE guidelines, particularly those who provoke violence through the use of toy weapons in educational institutions,” they said in a joint statement, using the abbreviation for the Ministry of Education.
Their response comes in the wake of widely shared images online showing young children and teachers carrying replica firearms and donning attire in the red, black, white and green colours associated with Palestine, which is under siege amid escalating conflict with Israel in the Middle East.
Several civil society organisations and prominent political and religious leaders, notably from east Malaysia, have expressed their opposition to the federal ministry’s directive, saying that public educational institutions should be kept separate from world politics.
In a separate statement earlier today, DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke had made a similar call urging the ministry to reconsider its directive.
The PKR elected representatives acknowledged the MoE's intention to use Palestine Solidarity Week as a platform for educating students about human values, human rights, and fostering compassion for those suffering.
However, they said the methods used could inadvertently sow seeds of resentment and violence, which could counteract the intended goals of the initiative.
They added that introducing international conflicts in schools is inappropriate and should be subject to a comprehensive reassessment.
The MPs and assemblymen called on Malaysians to maintain their rationale and peaceful stance while supporting the Palestinian cause.
The three PKR MPs in the statement are: Tan Kar Hing (Gopeng), Lee Chean Chung (Petaling Jaya), and Chiew Choon Man (Miri).
The nine assemblymen listed in the statement are: Lee Boon Heng (Kebun Bunga), Chua Wei Kiat (Rawang), Chan Chun Kuang (Semanbu), Wong Chai Yi (Simpang Pulai), Yew Boon Lye (Chuah), Goh Choon Aik (Bukit Tambun), David Cheong Kian Yong (Kajang), Arthur Chiong Sen Sern (Bukit Batu), and Adam Loh Wei Chai (Bakar Arang).
Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek took to her Facebook page last night to speak on the issue after public backlash over the portrayal of teachers and students in Palestinian symbols to show Malaysian solidarity.
She said the activities in the viral video took place after school hours and that her ministry still encourages participation in the programme.
She stressed that participation is voluntary and her ministry will not compromise with any show of violence or symbols of provocation.