Media Conference Statement (2) by
Parliamentary Opposition Leader and DAP MP for Ipoh Timur Lim Kit Siang
at DAP PJ Hqrs on Friday, 11th January 2008:
Songkok to be compulsory uniform for school prefects and students of
Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar in Johor Baru?
I have today received a complaint from a parent of a prefect in Maktab
Sultan Abu Bakar (formerly English College) in Johor Bahru expressing
the strongest objection to any attempt to make “songkok” part of the
compulsory uniform of school prefects and students in the school.
He said his son, who is in Form Five, has been a school prefect in
Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar since he was in Form Two and had always been an
exemplary student, as well has won praise from many teachers for his
exemplary conduct and commitment to his duties and studies. He is also a
member of the ExCo of the Prefectorial Board.
The parent wrote:
“Recently, in the beginning of
this year, there was an instruction from the school, which I believe
came from the teacher advisor to the Prefectorial Board, that Prefects
have to start wearing the Songkok as part of the official uniform. At
first, the instruction was that it would only be required during
‘official functions’ like school assemblies and during interschool
events or major events like sports day and speech day. However, this has
now been revised to include daily prefectorial duties.
“There are reasons to believe that the practice of getting Prefects to
wear the Songkok, is a prelude to getting ALL the students of the school
to eventually follow suit.
“My son, after conferring with me, has decided that he will NOT wear the
Songkok. He is willing to resign from the Prefectorial Board if forced
to wear the Songkok.”
The parent expresses grave regret at
the utter lack of sensitivity of the school authorities on this issue,
stating in considerable detail his objections – as “the songkok is an
emblem of the Malay identity” and “non-Malays should not be forced to
don attire which does not reflect their identity”.
I put up the parent’s letter on my blog and in a matter of six hours
there had been some 70 responses - demonstrating the strong feelings
evoked by another addition to a catalogue of insensitivities recently
shown by those in power or in authority in government to the legitimate
rights and sensitivities of diverse races, religions and cultures in a
plural society – aggravating racial and religious polarization instead
of forging greater unity and understanding among the different races,
religions and cultures in the country.
What has happened to the former English College, which has produced many
prominent Malaysians, including former Deputy Prime Minister and elder
ASEAN statesman, Tun Musa Hitam – who has been described as “the best
Prime Minister Malaysia never had”?
It is very sad that the 50th Merdeka anniversary had been marked by an
unprecedented display of insensitivity to the diverse races, religions
and cultures in Malaysia to the extent that the true meaning of the
Merdeka “social contract” had been distorted and overturned.
Some of these examples of insensitivity during the 50th Merdeka
• Declaration that Malaysia is an
• The keris-wielding by UMNO Youth leader and Education Minister, Datuk
Seri Hishammuddin Hussein;
• Demolition of Hindu temple on the eve of Deepavali;
• Holding of the UMNO General Assembly on Deepavali itself;
• Public excoriation of the Indian news vendors as if they were at fault
for Deepavali being an annual press holiday, resulting in no newspapers
the next day to cover the UMNO Presidential speech of Datuk Seri
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi;
• Call by extremist UMNO MPs in Parliament for the removal of the
“cross” and Christian symbols in mission schools’;
• The ban on the use of “Allah” by Christian and Sikh religions; and
• The revocation of approval for building the 108-ft Mazu statue in
Kudat, which will be the tallest Mazu statue in the world and would
also, be a tourist revenue-earner for Kudat, Sabah and Malaysia.
Recently, the Prime Minister, Datuk
Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called on moderates to take the centre stage
and not to allow extremist elements to occupy it to raise sensitive
religious and racial issues detrimental to nation-building in plural
Abdullah should maintain the 50-year status quo where the racial,
religious and cultural sensitivities of all communities in plural
Malaysia are given proper regard and respect and send out clear
directives to the Education Minister to nip in the bud all insensitive
and divisive tendencies in all educational institutions like the
retrogressive proposal to make the songkok part of official uniform for
school prefects and students in Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar, Johor Baru.
Kit Siang, Parliamentary
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman