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By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, Dec 19: Calls for Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik to either relinguish his post or apologise to Sarawakians for his “medan dakwah” statement have gathered pace.
When answering a question in Parliament recently, Maszlee appealed to religious teachers from Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah to continue serving in Sabah and Sarawak rather than seeking a return to Peninsular Malaysia due to a critical shortage of religious teachers, especially in the state.
He said Sabah and Sarawak would be their “medan dakwah” (Islamic propagation front) and “medan menabur bakti” (place to sow good deeds).
Yesterday, Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) expressed alarm over Maszlee’s stand, prompting it to call on the federal government to stop using public servants or teachers to carry out any form of Islamisation in Sabah and Sarawak.
Movement for Change Sarawak (MoCS) followed that up by describing Maszlee as being “unfit to be a minister”.
Today, Parti Keadilan Rakyat Women vice president Voon Shiak Ni chided Maszlee for making a statement that does not go down well with Sarawakians and advised him to retract it immediately.
Sarawak Patriot Association (SPA), on the other hand, said it was shocked to hear what Maszlee had said and wondered why he was using religious teachers to do something that was not in line with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah also commented that Maszlee must tread carefully on this subject so that what was spoken would not be misinterpreted or cause unease among the people.
When contacted, Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) deputy president Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum said Maszlee should either apologise or relinquish his post for his major blunder that had caused much tension in Sarawak.
“I concur with the calls by individuals and NGOs in Sarawak that if the minister is worth the position, he should either apologize or withdraw from the post,” said Salang to DayakDaily.
Meanwhile, Belaga assemblyman Datuk Liwan Lagang said Maszlee must focus on improving education facilities, especially in the rural areas of Sarawak, where there are still many schools with dilapidated conditions.
He said Maszlee should see to it that dilapidated Sarawak schools be repaired so that it would have better ambience for both students and teachers.
“His recent statement really stuns me because as a former educator myself, even though I am a staunch Christian, I would never want others to know about my personal belief because my core job description was to impart knowledge based on the national education policy.
“So, to Maszlee, I hope he retracts his statement and apologises to Sarawakians. Or better still, he should relinquish his post so that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government can find a more suitable person to lead MoE,” Liwan told DayakDaily.
He stressed that education also meant developing ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking students and not merely focusing on religion.
“Religion is a personal matter, and it should not be imposed on others. And since Sarawak has its autonomy on religious matters, Maszlee should learn to know the real content of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63). Only by knowing MA63 could he improve his common knowledge of Sarawak. That also depends if he still loves his present job,” said Liwan.
Liwan, who is also Assistant Minister of Water Supply, also chided Putrajaya for continuing to side with Maszlee when he had made several major blunders in the past, including imposing black shoes and black socks for students starting next year, which has subsequently earned him a nickname as a ‘black shoe minister”.
“But to me, his recent statement in Parliament urging Ustaz and Ustazah from Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah to stay back in Sarawak to turn it into a ‘medan dakwah’ (Islamic propagation field) has gone too far. Has he mistaken himself as a Religious Affairs Minister?” asked Liwan.
Meanwhile, SAVE Sarawak Rivers chairman Peter Kallang in a WhatsApp message said there was no room for bigotry and racism in Sarawakian culture.
“Like most Sarawakians, I want to see our Sarawak’s culture of mutual respect for our social, religious and ethnic diversity to be cherished and flourish. Bigotry, racism, corruption, elitism and snobbery have no room in our culture. Neither do we want our government leaders to be bigots, racist, corrupt and elitist. Where is the new Malaysia?” — DayakDaily