Humayun Kabir, Aug 27, 2010, 10:43am
The DAP is determined to get the current name of Sitiawan's SK Simpang Empat, given by the government when it took over its administration in the 1960s, replaced with its former historically significant name of SK Gandhi.
This follows the success of the party and the Committee Against the Acquisition of the Dindings Indian Association Heritage Land (CAADIAHL), together with the support of the Indian community in Sitiawan, in foiling a federal government attempt to take over a 2.2ha parcel of land belonging to the Dindings Indian Association (DIA).
The uphill struggle to preserve the Indian heritage land has gained political mileage for DAP, and also sent a clear message to the state MIC that it should not play second fiddle to Umno by keeping silent on matters affecting the Indian community in Perak.
Located on the land, purchased in 1930 with contributions from rubber tappers in 35 estates around Sitiawan, are the school, the school field, the DIA building, the Gandhi Memorial Community Hall and the Dr VRN Menon Science Laboratory.
Perak DAP deputy chief M Kulasegaran is all for the school getting back its original name, SK Gandhi, it is to remember Mahathma Gandhi, respected all over the world as the "apostle of peace" and who was the key figure in India's non-violent struggle for freedom from British rule.
The Sitiawan-born DAP Ipoh Barat MP said the original intention of building SK Gandhi was to educate the tappers' children in the English language. Though it is officially SK Simpang Empat now, it remains widely known to the locals as the "Gandhi school".
"Until the late 1970s, the name Gandhi was printed on the school's exercise books and at the entrance of the school, the name Gandhi was prominently displayed," Kulasegaran said.
Yesterday evening, DAP and CAADIAHL jointly held a public forum at the DIA Gandhi hall, which was also attended by another Sitiawan son, Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy, and former Perak assembly speaker V Sivakumar.
The crowd of about 500 resolved that the DIA land should always remain in the hands of the Sitiawan Indian community, which should have absolute control over any future development of the heritage site.
Another resolution passed was that any Indian in the Sitiawan area could become a member of the DIA without any restriction whatsoever.