Malaysian Cabinet says CNY decorations in school are fine

Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching (both centre) were among ministers who turned up yesterday at SMK Pusat Bandar Puchong 1 in Selangor to help put up lanterns for Chinese New Year. The school had
Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching (both centre) were among ministers who turned up yesterday at SMK Pusat Bandar Puchong 1 in Selangor to help put up lanterns for Chinese New Year. The school had earlier been accused of promoting Chinese culture to Malays.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Statement comes after Selangor school had to take down lanterns, following complaints

PUCHONG (Selangor) • A government school in Selangor which had to remove some of its Chinese New Year decorations put them up again yesterday, after the Malaysian Cabinet stepped in to say such festive items are normal in schools.

The secondary school, SMK Pusat Bandar Puchong 1, took down part of its decorations, including red lanterns, after getting a letter from a small Malay political party, Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (Putra), accusing the school of promoting Chinese culture to Malays.

Local news reports quoted Putra vice-president Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz as describing the decorations as "unconstitutional", claiming it had received complaints from Malay-Muslim parents.

"The complaints... show unease at the excessive Chinese New Year 2020 decorations in your school. Some parents say the school looks like a Chinese-owned market with religious elements on display that are other than Islam," he was reported as saying on Monday.

The Cabinet at its weekly meeting on Wednesday discussed the controversy and issued a statement yesterday, saying it is against "racist and extreme acts" aimed at stunting the country's multiracial diversity.

The statement said: "The Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, yesterday viewed the matter seriously.

"It is normal to put up decorative items in conjunction with festivities, including during Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Chinese New Year and Deepavali.

"Malaysia comprises a community of different cultures and we celebrate and embrace these festivities together for many years.

"We must respect one another because the different customs and cultures are a precious asset to the country. The Cabinet does not agree with racist and extreme acts of certain parties as it will jeopardise unity."

Several ministers yesterday turned up at the school to help put up lanterns.

They included Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, de facto Islamic Affairs Minister Mujahid Yusoff Rawa, Land and Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar and Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching. Several students and teachers were also seen decorating the school.

 
 
 

Dr Wan Azizah said there have been no problems over cultural diversity since Malaysia's independence.

"Don't create issues which can disunite the people. We are a stable and peaceful nation. Chinese New Year is a festival, not a religious celebration," she told reporters after visiting the school.

In a separate statement, the Education Ministry said the decorations were part of a state-level Chinese calligraphy competition that the school is hosting.

"We are satisfied with the explanation and are proud that the school has been selected as a host.

"Decorations for festivals celebrated in Malaysia are a yearly activity in schools," it added.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2020, with the headline 'Malaysian Cabinet says CNY decorations in school are fine'. Print Edition | Subscribe