Last Monday, the Minister of Human Resources Datuk S Subramaniam, while officiating at the ground breaking ceremony of a Tamil school in Merlimau, Malacca, announced that 69 Tamil schools in the country would be relocated.
We welcome this announcement as it indicates that the prevailing difficulties of those schools would be alleviated by their relocation.
However, it would have been better if this announcement had been made while Parliament was in session as it would allow us to subject it to the critical scrutiny it deserves.
It must be noted that the relocation announcement comes after the historic Parliamentary Round Table Conference which was held in that august chamber on June 27, 2011. This was the first round table ever held to discuss the future of Tamil schools that drew the attention and active participation of government and opposition MPs.
At the meeting, it was agreed a steering committee of 18 eminent persons be established to map out a “blue print for the future of Tamil schools.” The steering committee is headed by lawyer Pasupathy who is president of the Tamil Foundation.
In a follow-up move Dato Seri Mohd. Nazri Aziz and Dato Subramanim were appointed advisers to the steering committee. We hope the MIC and opposition MPs can play a positive role in the growth and flourishing of Tamil schools.
Although the relocation announcement by Subramaniam is most welcome, there is cause for anxiety that it is a manifestation of intent rather than actuality. I refer to a statement made in early May this year when Dato Veerasangam of the MIC made a similar announcement.
In that statement, I said and it was widely reported that “presently the Federal and state government are implementing and announcing polices on an ad hoc basis. As an example, the State MIC Chairman, Dato Veersangam, has now announced that 3 areas have been identified where Tamil schools will be relocated in Perak. There are Jelapang, Langkap, and Taman Gaya and Tun Sambathan in Sg. Siput.
My statement added; “From our investigations we cannot ascertain where these 3 Tamil schools would be relocated. Many are questioning the veracity of Veersangim’s statement. Can he be more specific and tell where actually the land has been identified.”
We are concerned that the latest announcement could just be an election gimmick to garner votes. Here it must be noted that last week DPM Muhyiddin had announced the building of a new Tamil school in Taman Gaya.
In that vein, the announcement by Subramaniam needs to be verified. He has to disclose which schools would be affected by the relocation and in which states and where and when would these schools be relocated.
These details are needed as we can then speak to Pakataan-run state governments to make sure there is adequate land. Also MPs can then raise matters related to Tamil schools without floundering in the obscurity in which these matters are shrouded.
As a start, can the Federal Government build a new Tamil school at Taman Sentosa, Kelang, where a school is acutely needed by Indians Malaysians residing in the vicinity. A land area of 2.5acreas has been gazetted for a Tamil school there by Selangor state government since July 2009.
Further, a piece of land encompassing 6 acreas at Taman Kelady in Sg. Petani, Kedah, has been gazetted for a school. In and around Taman Kelady over 1000 families reside. Many parents there, mostly from the lower income group, send their children to Tamil schools that are located about 7 km away. Many others due to financial constraints send their children to national or Chinese schools which are within walking distance.
It cannot be denied that in all the urban cities of the country, Tamil schools are overcrowded and many even have morning and afternoon sessions to accommodate the demand.
Thus urgency in policy and broadmindedness in thinking are needed by the Federal Government for the relocation of Tamil schools from the rural to urban areas.
Subramaniam had also announced that RM23 million has been allocated for the development of Tamil schools. We would like him to confirm on which schools will this amount be spent? Is the amount requested for by the MIC?
Finally, the question of what are the short term and long term financial needs of Tamil schools must be tackled.