KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 28 — Schools in Sabah are not required to conduct any activities for “Palestine Solidarity Week” as directed by the federal Education Ministry, state minister Datuk Phoong Jin Zhe said.

The Sabah industrial development and entrepreneurship minister said he has obtained a confirmation on the matter from federal Deputy Education Minister Lim Hui Ying as the policy is not suitable for implementation in the Borneo state.

He said the Education Ministry’s recent circular instructing all schools nationwide to hold the “Palestine Solidarity Week” event in support of Palestine from October 29 to November 3 has sparked controversy and opposition from various organisations and non-governmental organisations in Sabah.

“Although I support the prime minister and the government's stance on this international issue, it should not become an issue in schools, leading to scenes of children holding toy guns, causing fear and concern among parents and society.

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“As an elected representative, I am also strongly concerned about this issue. I believe that this activity should not only be discouraged in Sabah but also should not take place throughout Malaysia,” he said in a statement on his Facebook page last night.

Phoong, who is also Luyang assemblyman, said the federal Education Ministry should instead encourage schools to teach the importance of peace, rather than involving children, who lack the capacity for judgment, to be involved in complex political disputes.

He added students should refrain from participating in any form of political activities, especially supporting or being involved in conflicts abroad, as it would severely affect their physical, mental, and spiritual development.

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“I strongly oppose the pursuit of war and advocate for peace. I also pray for an early resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, allowing local residents to return to peaceful days,” said the DAP politician.

The federal Education Ministry has since issued a statement saying replica weapons, icons, and symbols containing provocative and confrontational elements, are not allowed to be used as part of the school activities meant to demonstrate Malaysians’ solidarity with Palestinians.

“The MOE encourages activities that support humanitarian issues such as peace-themed video screenings and poster painting competitions, recital of humanitarian poetry, and fundraising for the Palestinian people to be carried out throughout the week.

“All institutions under the MOE have been asked to always follow the organising guidelines. The Palestine Solidarity Week should be used as a platform to educate students about noble values, tolerance, compassion, and mutual respect,” it said in a statement late yesterday.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had yesterday called for better control of the “Palestine Solidarity Week” programmes in schools after images showing students, including those in primary level, and teachers carrying toy guns at the events.