CBN land lease bind: is this govt’s ‘thanks’ to educationists?

THE Federal Territories land and mines director’s explanation as reported in the media on why the lease for SMK Convent Bukit Nanas (CBN) was not renewed is neither convincing nor does it make any sense.  

Normally, the FT Land and Mines Office does not get involved in this type of public deliberation, nor does it make such policy decisions. These decisions are made by the cabinet after input from the relevant ministers, as they involve the continued role of mission schools in Malaysia.

These matters are to be decided by the cabinet after extensive stakeholder discussions, not something the federal lands commissioner or land and mines director is authorised to do on their own.

In fact, the former ministers in charge of natural resources should shed light on this matter, as the application to renew CBN’s lease was reported in the media as having been made on October 4, 2017, and a rejection received on December 18 last year.

They should let the public know whether the application was ever referred to them during their tenure, or if such a policy decision was made the basis of rejecting the application, especially since an all-boys mission school nearby had its lease extended.

It seems, from press reports, that the effective reason they would not renew the lease was because they wanted to give CBN more funds by making it a fully aided school, is certainly not a convincing or acceptable reason at all for an institution that has been operating fine on its own for 120 years, despite being only partly funded by the government, and yet, expected to do national service and educate all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or economic status, without profit, and fully in accordance with the government’s education syllabus.

Can the land and mines director confirm if he had informed the trustees of the school or its parent-teacher association that the government wanted to give them more money and upgrade CBN’s facilities if they gave up the land and agreed to the school being a fully funded one?

Was such a letter issued, or were there various meetings held to explain the situation to the school, as would be expected of the government when dealing with a 120-year-old education institution with a national reputation?

Please enlighten the public. After all, such “generosity” was not extended to the nearby all-boys mission school. Or, is this special treatment for all-girls schools only?

Was the Education Ministry involved in stakeholder dialogues?  

Was the school even asked in writing if it could continue to run and educate Malaysians as it had done for 120 years, according to the government’s standards, without full funding?

Surely, this question would have to be asked before such a policy-based decision was purportedly made.

Sadly, there is no indication of this process, which would be a legitimate expectation of the school if there was such a policy.

Moreover, this purported policy is totally without merit, and even if true, it would be totally outdated, because it is based on an illogical distinction between fully and partially aided schools in 2021.

This distinction ignores the basic fact that such schools are open to all Malaysians, irrespective of race and religion, and the government syllabus is taught to all without discrimination.

The government should fund all schools, regardless of such distinction, where the schools provide national education to all Malaysians without profit, according to the government syllabus and curriculum.

Such schools were originally built with monies raised by the Infant Jesus Sisters and public donations, with no financial aid from the government.

It is the dedication of educationists who have made huge sacrifices, who devoted their lives to the education of all Malaysians, especially the last, the lost and the least.

Many MPs, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, parents and citizens have benefited greatly from their efforts, as has the whole nation.

These mission schools have become some of the country’s leading education institutions.

Even today, many owe their standing in life and society to the Sisters, because of the sacrifices of these educationists.

The education provided is wholesome and holistic, and instils good moral values, loyalty and discipline in every student.

It seems that this explanation – if it is to be believed – suggests that as repayment and gratitude for their efforts, the Sisters and educationists of CBN, who gave their all to educate tens of thousands of Malaysians without a salary or pension, at standards of excellence that only dedicated educationists can achieve, are now told that the school will revert to the government so that it can repair the slope if and when it collapses, or give it more money to upgrade.

This appears to be thanks to CBN after 120 years of service, but it can appeal to the federal lands commissioner if the Sisters want a further role. I hope the government will realise the travesty and gross injustice of what is being done, and renew the school’s lease for a better Malaysia and the dedicated educationists who have fought so hard to educate our women, many of whom have since made tremendous contributions to nation-building and society.

It is not lost upon us that it seems this is not the first partially funded all-girls school in Kuala Lumpur to suffer this fate. The government can no longer ignore this. 

Derek Fernandez is a lawyer and expert in public administrative law

See Original: Fernandez, D. (2021, April 21). CBN land lease bind: is this govt’s ‘thanks’ to educationists? TheVibes.Com.