Unease grows over Muslim head for top convent school

By Debra Chong

The Malaysian Insider
Dec 17, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 — For Catholic Malaysians, Putrajaya’s latest pick of a Malay-Muslim principal to head the prestigious SMK Convent Bukit Nanas (CBN) underscores a worrying trend to disregard the Church’s contribution and rights in the country.

Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam waded this week into a growing row between the 112-year-old school’s Catholic owners and the Ministry of Education (MOE) after its new principal Datin Seri Zavirah Mohd Shaari’s surprise arrival at its doorstep.

“The appointment of the principal of CBN is not only contrary to the government policy of maximum consultation but has given the impression that it is the government’s strategy to take over the mission schools in total disregard for the status, ethos and special character of mission schools, especially CBN,” Pakiam said in a statement published earlier this week in Catholic paper The Herald.

He was appealing to Education director-general Datuk Seri Abdul Ghafar Mahmud to reconsider the ministry’s decision and pick a suitably qualified person nominated by the school owners under the Infant Jesus (IJ) Sisters order. The school is considered among the top convent schools in the country.

The case comes on the heels of a recent drama over the police’s extra conditions for carolling permits on two South Klang churches less than two weeks ago.

Earlier this year, right-wing Malay-Muslim groups triggered a national uproar over persistent rumours that churches are on a campaign to convert their own and pushing unfounded allegations of a secret political plot to install a Christian prime minister in the next general election.

Christians say such issues are an attempt to erode their religious rights in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

CBN, which has produced notable personalities such as Bersih 2.0 chief Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and former International Trade Minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, is one of 60 convent schools in Malaysia, Sister Rosalind Tan told The Malaysian Insider.

Tan is the mother provincial of the IJ Sisters and the person in charge of the order’s administration in the country.

She related that the school’s board of governors were taken aback when Zavirah reported for duty last week.

The previous head, Ann Khoo, retired last month because there was no prior notice from the Education Ministry.

Tan said this was not the first time the ministry had acted without consultation, saying the issue had been going on for decades.

She said the order, as the school’s rightful owners, had a responsibility to ensure the school head abided by its founding ethos even though the operations were now managed by the federal government.

“We have no qualms about race or religion of the principal posted to our mission schools,” she said in an interview this week.

She said that Zavirah was not school’s first lay principal, or the order’s first non-Christian school head; but expressed disappointment that its nominees had been sidelined by the ministry.

“What we want are principals who know what the mission school is and stands for,” she stressed.

In his statement, Pakiam highlighted that Zavirah had not been on a list submitted by the mission school authority.

He said the decision breached a previous government policy in the 1970s for “maximum consultation” with Christian mission schools nationwide in a revised report by the Royal Commission on the Teaching Services, West Malaysia.

The metropolitan archbishop added that former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was the education minister in 1976, had repeated and affirmed the pledge in 1998 in a trip to Kota Kinabalu, to consult mission school authorities over the choice of school heads and teachers.

The Malaysian Insider understands there are over 400 Christian mission schools nationwide.

Catholics, who make up nearly one million of the country’s 28 million total population, have founded more than 250 such schools, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s alma mater, St John’s Institution, which neighbours CBN.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Saturday, 17 December 2011 - 9:46 am

    unmo will claim that its moslem head will prevent the sort of nonsense as happened to the ens of thousands of Dutch children in their catholic schools!


  2. #2 by dagen on Saturday, 17 December 2011 - 10:40 am

    Next step: change of name – from covent bukit nanas (jenis kebangsaan) to sekolah agama bukit nanas (jenis umno).

    Jib jib boleh.
    Ros ros cantik.

  3. #3 by yhsiew on Saturday, 17 December 2011 - 12:06 pm

    Terrible religious intolerance practiced by the BN government.

  4. #4 by waterfrontcoolie on Saturday, 17 December 2011 - 12:06 pm

    The problem is UMNO itself is caught up with its sloganeering onslaught thinking that by taking over a well-known school and pack them with a single community, good result will be created. They are so caught with this naive mind game that they thought everyone else is as naive as they are! Practically most of the so-called one-time well-known schools have been invaded in this manner. And they still refused to see the real outcome of their action. Students will strive well only when they are able to inter-react with their peers of their equal. One reason why the top Us try to gather the top grey matter together. Here we have to deal with SMALL btains which are emplaced at pinnacle of power which is abused through narrow-mindedness. In spite what is said of a possible new Gomen, even if it comes about, this nation will need at least ONE FULL GENERATION or even TWO to recover from this madness. It is not the skin nor one’s faith that should be the criterion for such post but again it is a fact that no community could be endowed with over 80% of the total sum of the brain in any country. When you have over 90% of a single community monopolizing any sector, quality will drop. This is even more drastic when the monopolizing community has been dependent on handicaps all along!

  5. #5 by Bunch of Suckers on Saturday, 17 December 2011 - 6:00 pm

    Understandably, those suckers want to Mulisimize the entire nation, bit by bit…

  6. #6 by Dipoh Bous on Saturday, 17 December 2011 - 8:04 pm

    That’s a real manifestation of 1Malaysia. I am so proud of our MOE.

    Very soon we’ll have christians/buddhists/hindus/ being appointed as principals / headmasters /headmistres at the numerous Sekolah Agama in our country.

    1Malaysia is really kicking off….

  7. #7 by PoliticoKat on Saturday, 17 December 2011 - 11:41 pm

    Yup. next step is to have muslim prayers at the start of every class. My Jenis Kebangsaan school already has this, so why shouldn’t a convert school follow what is already done in the national schools?

    Next, the convert school should also have field trips.. ‘camping’, where non-muslim student will be taught the dangers of their life styles and our lack of moral compass. I had to attend such educational camps every year in upper secondary (Tingkatan 4, and 5).

    And people wonder why Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan is falling out of favour.

  8. #8 by 1temberang on Sunday, 18 December 2011 - 7:06 pm

    It is even more incredible that there is hardly any criticisms from our Muslim brothers and sisters. The Islamization is going on a fast pace. Will there be a place for non Muslims in Malaysia in the future?

  9. #9 by Jong on Monday, 19 December 2011 - 10:15 pm

    Let’s see if they will ‘listen’ to the people. ‘Rakyat yang tuan’, no?

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