'Students forced to pray in open'
Published on: Saturday, November 29, 2014
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KOTA KINABALU: The Education Ministry has directed the Labuan Matriculation College (LMC) – no stranger to controversies in the past – to investigate allegations that Christian students are forced to pray under a tree in the open and must wear Tudung and Songkok if they wished to participate in the Students' Parliament."These are serious allegations. I have instructed the college officers to investigate. We want to ascertain if there is any truth in the allegations. They will report back to me," said Deputy Education Minister I, Datuk Mary Yap Kain Ching, Friday, when contacted.

Daily Express decided to refer the allegations to the Minister concerned when several attempts to verify them with the College's Director, were futile.

Affected students complained they are required to don the songkok, and the tudung (veil) in the case of female students if they were to become members of the Students' Parliament.

Parents also voiced unhappiness that their children are not allowed to use any facility or room inside the college for prayers.

"The poor students are forced to say their prayers under the sun or tree in the compound. Even then, the security guard would allegedly harass them (students) to hurry up, forcing them to stop even before they can finish praying.

"This is ridiculous, especially when freedom of worship is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution and the nation's leaders keep reiterating this."

A previous controversy concerning the college and under the same College Director in July 2012 was of Sabah and Sarawak Christian students being pressured to convert to another faith and three students having done so. It resulted in an investigation and a meeting between the College's Management and Inter-Church Committee Labuan.

The latest talk making the rounds is that three students, all girls – one from Sabah and two from Sarawak – have converted to another faith but could not be confirmed.

The college's Director, Sawang Amit, could not be reached for comment despite five calls and leaving messages behind. His secretary said he was too busy.

A source said that two weeks ago, a Christian lecturer presented a letter, which was a reply from the Education Ministry to the Catholic Church in Sabah, to Sawang concerning Christian students' inability to pray inside the college.

However, the Director reportedly said he was not aware of the letter and that there was no "green light" from the Ministry to allow Christian students to pray within the building's premises.

In October 2012, Catholic Bishops in Sabah jointly signed a letter, together with a report prepared by the Sabah Catholic Diocesan Centre, calling for a full probe into allegations that non-Muslim students were vulnerable to pressure in local higher education institutions.

The letter was sent to the "highest authorities" with copies to Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Education, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and two Sabahan Christian Ministers at that point in time – Tan Sri Bernard Dompok and Dr Maximus Ongkili.

Subsequently, in December 2012, the Education Ministry sent a delegation for a meeting with representatives from the Catholic Diocesan Centre.


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