Malaysian Tamil schools ‘lock out’ Penang minister

June 23rd, 2008 - 1:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, June 23 (IANS) P. Ramasamy, the Indian origin Deputy Chief Minister of opposition-ruled Penang state in Malaysia, has alleged that federally-run Tamil schools do not invite him, although he wants to help them. Only two of the 28 Tamil schools in Penang state have invited him in the four months since he took over as the deputy chief minister.

Ramasamy alleged that there seemed to be an “unwritten rule” that state executive council members (ministers) in charge of Tamil schools should not be invited to the schools, as they were under the federal government’s purview.

The state’s bureaucracy is playing safe at the allegation of a political nature coming from Ramasami.

A state education department spokesman said there was no such “unwritten rule”. “We do not know why the Tamil schools are not inviting Dr. Ramasamy,” said the spokesman.

He added that schools were required to write to the department if they sought to invite state government leaders, including the deputy chief minister and assemblymen.

Ramasami is not the first opposition politician to level this allegation since ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) emerged victorious, but weakened at the federal level, and lost control of four states to the opposition in general elections held in March.

Lack of land and space is the biggest problem the Tamil schools face while catering to the needs of the country’s two-million-plus Tamil population, said Ramasami, who handles the education portfolio among others.

“I am in a position to help, but I can’t if the schools do not seek me out,” he said. “If I am not invited, how then am I going to find out about their problems, and help them?” he was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper Monday.

He has visited only two schools that fall under his parliamentary constituency. But it was not the school management that invited him.

The visit to one was at the invitation of its parent-teacher association while the other was on last Saturday - not during school hours.

He said he could help the schools overcome these if he was “given a chance”, the newspaper said.

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