Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sarawak leaders rubbish Muhyiddin’s answer on ‘Anak Angkat’ project

Sarawak leaders rubbish Muhyiddin’s answer on ‘Anak Angkat’ project

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Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen says Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's written reply on the 'Anak Angkat' programme was not correct. – The Malaysian Insider pic, June 27, 2014.Sarawak politicians have ripped into Putrajaya’s explanation that the controversial "Anak Angkat" programme for Sarawak schools was a motivational programme, saying the education’s minister’s denial that it was a covert attempt to convert Christian students to Islam does not hold water.
DAP’s Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen was livid at Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s response to a question he had posed in Parliament earlier this month.
“Motivational programme? That's a lie,” Chong said.
“If it was so noble a programme as the minister claimed, why was it suddenly terminated after an outcry by the students' parents?” he asked.
Following reports that parents of students in SMK Balai Ringin in the Serian district were up in arms over Islamisation elements in the programme conducted in May, Muhyiddin had told Chong in a written reply in Parliament that the programme was aimed at increasing the academic performance of students from poor families.
"The information received from the Sarawak education department showed that the programme held on May 3 this year involving 50 children was a motivational programme and contained no elements to convert the religion of the students involved," stated the reply to Chong's June 6 question.
Muhyiddin also said the school had since terminated the programme, which was sanctioned by the Rural and Regional Development ministry.
Rubbishing the minister’s answer, Chong said the termination showed there was a hidden agenda in the programme.
He said if Muhyiddin and the Sarawak education department believed the programme was in no way a guise to convert Christian rural students, they should have insisted that the programme be continued.
“Even the name of the programme, 'Anak Angkat' (adoption) carries a connotation,” he added.
He also questioned the ministry’s reason for sending a Muslim NGO to Sarawak's rural areas to “adopt students knowing full well they are non-Muslims”.
“Does the ministry lack non-Muslim officers and NGOs to send to these areas? Don't they know the background of these areas?” he asked.
The programme was run by an NGO called the Organisation of Graduates and Educational Institutions Malaysia, or better known as Haluan.
Chong said sending a Muslim NGO to carry out a programme laced with Islamic teachings was a clear attempt to indoctrinate the students.
He said such programmes and Muslim NGOs like Haluan were creating social disorder “in our harmonious Sarawak environment”.
Barisan Nasional's Balai Ringin assemblyman Snowdan Lawan also had reservations about Muhyiddin's explanation.
Snowdan said since the outcry over the programme, he was briefed by the deputy president of Haluan Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Abu Azam Md Yassin.
"From how he explained it, it did sound like it was a motivational programme, and a good one at that.
"But from what I had gathered from the students and their parents, it looked like the programme's counsellors had taken it upon themselves to stray out of the module.
"They had gone out of topic by trying to go overboard with things Islam.
"It would be more appropriate for them to target the Muslim students rather than the Christian students.
"If Haluan was sincere in wanting to help motivate children from poor families in their studies and if they think their topics on Islam could help make the students better, then they should have targetted the Malay Muslim students in the area instead of the Iban students who are largely Christians," he said.
He pointed out there are between 1,000 to 2,000 Malay families in Balai Ringin who probably need help to motivate their children to do better in their studies.
"You don't send an Imam to preach in the church. Neither do you sent a priest to preach in the Hindu or Buddhist temples.
"NGOs who plan to work with students ought to be careful in what they do. Religion is a sensitive thing and these NGOs therefore ought to be very alert to such sensitivities," he said.
Sarawak Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing had highlighted the issue on May 14 after parents of students complained about the programme.
The students had told their parents that two teachers selected them to attend the programme and told them it was a co-curricular activity, but added that they were asked questions on Islam.
The students also said that the programme facilitators were Muslims and the talks had religious elements.
In response to Muhyiddin's reply, Masing said he doubted if the education minister, who is also the deputy prime minister, had been told the whole truth.
“He was not there. Neither was I there.
“His reply to Chong was merely relying on what the Sarawak education department had given him.”
However, Masing said he had personally met some of the students who had been involved in the programme as well as their parents.
“What they had told me, they were not happy with the programme. They didn't like it that questions on Islam were asked and some Christians practices were questioned.
“What I was interested in when talking to them was their reaction. The reaction of the parents and the reaction of the children.
“They were clearly unhappy with the programme,” he said.
Masing said from the reactions he got, he gathered that “there were some attempts to convert the students”.
Following the complaints, the state's education department had been ordered by Minister in the Chief Minister's Office in charge of Islamic affairs in the state, Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman, to suspend the programme pending a review. – June 27, 2014.

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