PETALING JAYA: The G25 group of prominent Malays has advised religious authorities not to resist the open inquiry into the manner in which private religious schools are run, following a fire at a tahfiz school that killed 23 people.
In a statement today, it welcomed Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s announcement of a special task force to look into the tragedy at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school in Kampung Datuk Keramat yesterday.
“This is normal practice in democratic and civil societies, and reflects a caring and responsible nation.
“Malaysia should not exempt religious schools from the principles of common justice or hide the underlying problems of religious education from public scrutiny as this will only lead to similar tragedies recurring in the future.”
The blaze, which broke out at the tahfiz school just before dawn, was extinguished within the hour but not before wreaking devastation.
Authorities had initially suspected that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit.
However, the fire department is investigating the possibility that it was an act of mischief, following a review of evidence and witness testimonies.
The Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department’s K-9 dog unit also sniffed out traces of chemicals around the area, which have been sent for lab tests.
Those who survived the blaze reportedly told authorities they were unable to leave the dormitory through the door as there were two cooking gas cylinders in front of it.
G25 said all private religious schools should be subjected to the minimum standards for boarding institutions, including a proper teacher-to-student ratio and adherence to fire and safety standards.
The group added that its members, which included retired senior judges, civil servants and diplomats, were willing to assist in getting to the bottom of the tragedy so that the religious departments in all states can exercise proper regulatory control over these private religious schools.