Emergency Motion On St Thomas Schools Rejected

Parliament today rejected an emergency motion by an opposition MP to discuss the controversial plan to move more than 1,000 students from a mission school in Kuantan to two other schools following a land dispute with the Catholic church.

Deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee rejected Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh's motion to debate the issue, saying that it was not urgent. He, however, allowed her to read her motion before dismissing it.

About 1,190 students and the administratitive staff at St Thomas primary and secondary schools will be relocated to two other schools nearby starting from December 15, it was previously reported.

“The ministry’s argument is that the church is now asking rent but when I met with the church’s representatives in Kuantan, they said even a token sum is fine since the school had been there for more than 60 years.

“It is a stupid move and has to be stopped. I don’t understand why the government is going through with it,” Fuziah said at the parliament lobby today.

She noted that the land was owned by the church under Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam. The church, she said, had sent a notice to the ministry to inform it of its intention to take back the land to expand the church in 2008.

Fuziah accuses the Pahang Menteri Besar of creating ill-feelings between the church and St Thomas pupils and administration.

The Education Ministry, Fuziah said, had "shown its arrogance" to the land owners.

"Instead of looking for a place to relocate the entire school or negotiating with the church in the five years, the ministry gazetted the land for acquisition on May 24, 2012.

"The church only learnt of it when it received the notice of intended acquisition of the land a month later on June 21 and this angered it.”

The church argued that the plan to acquire the land was null and void because it went against the Federal Constitution which promised the freedom of religion.

Putrajaya later withdrew its bid.

Fuziah, who had raised the issue in Parliament last week, was disappointed when Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan failed to address it in Parliament.

At the press conference, the Kuantan MP also lashed out at Pahang Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob, whom she accused of creating "ill-feelings" between the church and St Thomas pupils and administration.

"He said in public that the church was chasing the school and its pupils away. This has caused some misunderstanding between both parties. I am just trying to difuse the tension.” 

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