The canteen issue isn’t a small matter
Deputy Education Minister Kamalanathan does not really understand the gravity of the situation, especially amongst non-Muslim children in schools.
COMMENTBy P Ramasamy
More than 50 years of BN/Umno’s political hegemony has meant not the resolution of outstanding ethnic and religious problems, but their perpetuation in different and nefarious ways.
In a specific sense, the government in power has the tendency to cover up matters especially those that touch on racial and religious sensitivities.
One such recent case involved non-Muslim children being told to use the shower/bathroom place to have their meals during the month of Ramadan at SK Seri Pristana in Sungai Buloh, Selangor.
A parent who visited the school highlighted the matter later to be picked by the social media and the press. As a result of this exposure, there was a hue and cry, parents and the general public asking the authorities to take swift action against the school authorities.
The matter was serious. It was a case of non-Muslim children being penalised during the month of Ramadan. It was only natural that the authorities would swoop down and take the necessary action.
However, to everyone’s dismay, the arrival of Deputy Education Minister, P Kamalanathan was nothing to celebrate.
Knowing very well that he has a close relationship with Umno leaders, the parent and the public were in for a big disappointment.
Kamalanathan having lost the trust of the Indian community on the matriculation matter, added fuel to the fire by trying to defuse the canteen issue.
He was quick to dismiss the matter as non-racial and non-religious and defended the headmaster by saying that the latter had good intention but chose the wrong place to allow the children to have their meals.
More than this, he went out of his way to say that since the canteen was undergoing renovation, the school had no choice but to make a temporary make-shift place for non-Muslims children to have their meals.
He also announced that renovation of the canteen was almost completed and that the children would have their meals there once again. He even promised a special allocation for the school including his own amounting to RM10.000.
He even said since the headmaster has apologised the matter should be left to rest. Unable to explain matters clearly to angry parents, he even tendered his own personal apology to parents who were gathered there.
Umno maintaining hegemony
Kamalanathan who is noted for servility to Umno leaders does not really understand the gravity of the situation, especially amongst non-Muslim children in schools.
Public schools known for their racial and religious intolerance continue to insult and marginalise children belonging to faiths other Islam.
The canteen issue is one issue. In the past there have been numerous instances where non-Malay/Muslim children have been insulted and humiliated by racist teachers and headmasters.
To date the education ministry or its top officials have not done anything to rectify matters.
There is no point in calling for national reconciliation after the last general election, when Umno is bent on revitalising a hegemonic set up.
In this context, the social, cultural and educational realms are used by those in power to produce and perpetuate this hegemonic set up which is racist and diabolical nature.
P Ramasamy is Penang’s Deputy Chief Minister 2.