Canteen fiasco: Will the real story emerge?
Who is lying over the SK Seri Pristana canteen issue, the parent, the school or politician Kamalanathan?
COMMENTBarely two months after the 13th general election, the federal government has proven that strictly politics and not the rakyat’s welfare is its agenda.
This conclusion comes from one too many instances; the Barisan Nasional government’s refusal to address the issue of custodial deaths, deny the escalating racial tension, the gall to continue playing dirty at the elections and its unwillingness to tackle the corruption malaise plaguing the nation among others.
And for all the government’s misdeeds or misdoings, the BN politicians are always on their toes to do what their do best – not reaching out to the rakyat but rather concocting all excuses and claims to defend the government’s wrongdoings.
This long withstanding ‘serve Umno and not the rakyat’ tradition practiced by BN politicians loathes the rakyat who post-2008 have become more discerning in their choice of leaders they want for their beloved country.
It is a tragedy that BN still rules and it is just as much a tragedy that its politicians who have been tasked with serving the rakyat are doing the opposite – licking the boots of their political masters.
One such politician who has no interest in serving the rakyat is Deputy Education Minister II P Kamalanathan, who in just two months after his appointment as deputy minister has left the people unimpressed with his ‘subservient to the boss’ skills.
He first attempted to cover up for the Education Ministry’s racist policies and blamed Indian students over the poor response to the matriculation programme.
Now the Hulu Selangor MP is doing it again; this time he is trying to sweep under the carpet the racist and discriminatory practices of some schools in conjunction with the fasting month.
It was reported recently that a school, SK Seri Pristana in Sungai Buloh had closed down its canteen in view of the fasting month and set up a makeshift canteen in a changing room next to the school’s toilets.
Unhappy with the move, a parent posted up pictures of the makeshift canteen on Facebook which generated massive uproar.
When she paid the school a visit during her child’s recess period, she was told by a school official that the canteen was closed because there were no cleaners at hand to clean the canteen.
“When I complained about the makeshift canteen, the official asked if I wanted them to eat at the garden outside, which is basically a storage area for the school’s broken furniture.
“The official then said that the pupils will be moved to another changing room which is not next to the toilet,” the parent was quoted by an English daily as saying.
Ministry covering up for racist school
When the parent enquired why they were not informed about the canteen’s closure for the fasting month, the school official replied that it was “common sense”.
How is asking the non-Muslim children to eat nearby a toilet a ‘common sense’ move?
Dare SK Seri Pristana deny that it gives preference to its Muslim students, that too at the expense of the health of its non-Muslim students?
The school told the parent that it had closed the canteen because there were no cleaners to clean the canteen. The school headmaster Mohd Nasir Mohd Noor instead told the press that the canteen was out of service to facilitate renovation work, a claim which was denied by the school’s students.
If the school thought it could take the parents for a ride, it was terribly mistaken.
To close down the canteen all because the school gives priority to its Muslim students and staff are observing the fasting month of Ramadan speaks poorly of an establishment entrusted with the business of educating and nurturing children into wholesome beings.
A shame that the school practices racism openly and makes no bones about it.
However, what is more shameful is the fact that the Education Ministry is covering up for the school’s ‘bad faith’ act by claiming that the canteen was closed for renovation work and that using the shower room as a makeshift canteen was not an issue related to race or religion.
How did Kamalanathan deduce that the school canteen had ceased operations to accommodate renovation work when the school’s staff told a parent that the canteen was closed due to lack of cleaners?
Who is lying here, the parent, the school or politician Kamalanathan?
Also, would Kamalanathan as parent have ‘forgotten’ the issue had his child been made to eat her or his food next to the toilet?
Be it the issue of Indian student and matriculation courses or the recent act of a school to blatantly disrespect the rights of its non-Muslim students to have their meals in the clean environment of a canteen, Kamalanathan has on all occasions defended the actions of the ‘perpetrators’ and failed the rakyat.
Education Ministry not for national unity
Depriving the non-Muslim students of their right to a decent place and space to enjoy their food all because it is the month of Ramadan does not augur well when it fostering racial bonds.
There is no doubt that the school could not care less where its non-Muslim students ate because its focus was to prevent any discomfort to the Muslim students.
Not just that, SK Seri Pristana did not even have the deceny to inform the parents via the Parents-Teachers Association about its plan to shut down the canteen during the fasting month.
To cite ‘common sense’ as a school official did was outrageous. Did the school expect the non-Muslim students to sacrifice their meals times to ‘support’ their Muslim fasting friends?
The school has yet to give a ‘intelligent’ explanation concerning its discriminatory move. To now play hide-and-seek with the parents as the school headmaster is now doing to avoid speaking the truth is not going to ease matters.
As far as the parents’ are concerned, the issue is far from closed. But they also worry that their children will be penalised over the issue as the teachers of SK Seri Pristana are displeased that ‘eating next to the toilet’ has become a colossal issue for the non-Muslim parents.
While parents’ of the non-Muslim students of SK Seri Pristana remain horrified over the humiliation their children underwent in the interest of the Muslim students there, the people’s leader Najib Tun Razak who never tires of claiming that ‘people come first’ is ‘at a loss for words’ yet again.
Najib’s ‘silent by choice’ attitude has only strengthened the rakyat’s conviction that BN will continue to buck the system, as far as the country’s minority races go.
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.