IPOH: April 15, 2008 by Jaspal Singh
An Education Ministry circular instructing state education departments to give priority to the ministry's officials in the opening of school functions has been criticised by the Pakatan Rakyat state government.
The March 31 circular, sent to all state education directors, is seen as being discriminatory towards the five state governments under Pakatan Rakyat. Hence, the ministry has been asked to retract the document.
Perak state executive councillor A. Sivanesan said it was due to the restriction in the ministry's circular that he had to decline to open a parent-teacher association (PTA) annual meeting on the invitation of the SJK (T) Mahatma Gandhi Kalasalai in Sungai Siput last Sunday.
He said here yesterday that the circular, agreed to by the Education Ministry's committee on integrity and firmness on March 24, stated clearly that notwithstanding applications by PTAs or schools to invite VIPs, the persons who could officiate at school PTA meetings, sports meets and prize presentations ceremonies were the:
- Education minister
- Deputy education ministers
- Ministry secretary-general
- Ministry director-general
- State education directors
- Representatives of the above
Copies of the circular, signed by the ministry's director-general, Datuk Alimuddin Mohd Dom, were distributed to reporters.
Sivanesan said the circular, issued after the March 8 general election, showed that the ministry was purposely creating obstacles for officials from Pakatan Rakyat state governments from entering schools to officiate at events.
"The circular, which some ministry officials denied existed when questioned last month, is real.
"What are the intentions of the formulators of this discriminatory policy?
"Is it to deprive Pakatan Rakyat state governments from learning about problems faced by partially-aided Tamil or Chinese schools?"
Elaborating on his decision not to attend SJK (T) Mahatma Gandhi Kalasalai's PTA meeting, Sivanesan said he was informed by the school's PTA chairman, S. Thiagarajan, last Friday that the state education department had instructed that the meeting be called off if he (Sivanesan) was to attend the function.
"The PTA was given two choices: either hold the meeting without my presence or no meeting in my presence.
"Since parents were already notified about the meeting I decided it was best that I did not attend although I very much wanted to hear about the problems faced by the school and the parents concerned."
Sivanesan said it would not be possible for him as the executive councillor in charge of health to visit students in the schools who suffered from food poisoning or, for that matter, for Nga Kor Ming, the executive councillor in charge of education, to officiate events at any schools in the state.
He said he would be bringing up the matter with Menteri Besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin soon so that official objections on the circular could be forwarded to the ministry.
Perak DAP deputy chairman and MP for Ipoh Barat M. Kulasegaran said he would be taking up the matter in parliament.
"It is clear that they are mounting moves to paralyse the Pakatan Rakyat administration in the five states by stopping state executive councillors and chief ministers from entering schools even in their official capacities so that they do not get close to the people."