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The best Deepavali gift: a Tamil secondary school

October 17, 2017

Writer says the green light for the setting up of a Tamil secondary school would strengthen Tamil education in Malaysia and accord Indians the respect and dignity that they deserve.


ramasamyBy P Ramasamy

If Prime Minister Najib Razak is serious about the Indian community, I suggest he gives them a Deepavali present in the form of approval for the immediate establishment of a Tamil secondary school in the state of Penang.

Hundreds and thousands of Indians in the country will be celebrating Deepavali tomorrow. Hindu Indians will be inviting their relatives and friends for open house functions, as with other festivals in Malaysia. Deepavali is a joyous occasion for Indians, something that they and their families look forward to.

It is during Deepavali that they forget their worries and concerns to celebrate the festival of lights, a festival that symbolises the victory of good over evil. But surely, even if Indians do not expect much from the government, it would be wise for the federal government to make some important announcements that will benefit the community.

Such announcements will go down well with the community that has contributed in blood and tears to the development and modernisation of the country.

Indians do not expect an earth-shaking announcement from the federal government, but surely Najib, who was recently declared the “father” of Indian development, can come up with one or two announcements before Deepavali to show his appreciation for the community.

On this matter, I would like to suggest that Najib announce the approval for the setting up of the first Tamil school in Penang.

Why Penang? It was Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng who first mooted the idea of a Tamil secondary school in Penang some years ago. He wrote two letters to the education minister on this matter, but unfortunately the proposal was shot down on the grounds that it contradicted the Education Act.

MIC, which regards itself as the “mother party” of Indians, refused to take up the matter. On the contrary, it suggested that Indian parents send their children to Tamil primary schools instead of thinking about a Tamil secondary school. This remark came from none other than Deputy Education Minister P Kamalanathan, the infamous “yes-man” for Umno.

It is not that a Tamil secondary school should be located in Penang. It can be located in other states that have sizeable Indian populations. But at least in Penang, the chief minister has promised that if the federal government approves the proposal, the state government will provide a piece of suitable land, free of charge.

This is why Penang is attractive for the establishment of the first Tamil secondary school. Perhaps after Penang, Tamil secondary schools can be established in other states, provided that other state governments are willing to provide suitable land.

I don’t understand how the setting up of a Tamil secondary school in the country would contradict the Education Act. There are Malay, English, Arabic, Chinese and even Japanese secondary schools in the country. Some of these are private establishments, while others are public secondary schools.

I am not suggesting a private Tamil secondary school, but schools that would be completely financed by the government with a curriculum similar to that of other public secondary schools. If the government wants to model the Tamil secondary school along the lines of bantuan modal (partially funded), then the community leaders can give their views.

The majority of the present Tamil primary schools in the country fall within the category of bantuan modal schools. But the preference would be for the establishment of bantuan penuh (fully aided) Tamil secondary schools.

MIC and other Indian mosquito parties that are aligned with Barisan Nasional (BN) talk so much about the Indian community, but their leaders simply lack the guts to take up the challenge of a Tamil secondary school. Maybe they are embarrassed that the idea comes from an opposition leader, but if they really think of the well-being of the community, it does not matter where the idea comes from as long as it is good for the community.

Najib knows very well the position of MIC and other “slavish” parties that are aligned with BN. He should not be interested in their views because they have none for the betterment of the community. He should be bold enough to make some unilateral announcements for the future well-being of the community.

If he could give the green light for the setting up of a Tamil secondary school in the country for Indians, this would be the best Deepavali present for Indians.

The establishment of a secondary school in Penang would be the best start not only in terms of strengthening Tamil education in the country, but also recognising that the Tamil language is in on par with other languages such as English, Malay, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic.

Such a move will be in line with the respect and dignity that Indians deserve.

P Ramasamy is the Penang deputy chief minister and DAP deputy secretary-general.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.



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