Malaysia's Cabinet steps in to say Chinese New Year decorations in schools to stay

Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah and Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching (both centre) visiting the school which was asked to remove the CNY decorations. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PUCHONG (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A government school in Puchong, Selangor, which removed some of its Chinese New Year lanterns, on Thursday (Jan 9) put these up again after the Malaysian Cabinet stepped in to say such decorations are normal in schools.

The secondary school, SMK Pusat Bandar Puchong 1, took down part of their 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 say Putra vice-president Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz on Monday (Jan 6) described the decorations as being "unconstitutional", claiming that complaints were received from Malay-Muslim parents.

"The complaints we've received 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 saying.

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

"The Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday (Wednesday), 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, " the statement said.

On Thursday, several ministers turned up at the school to help put up the lanterns again. 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 Wan Ismail said there were no problems over cultural diversity since the country'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 is a yearly activity in schools, " it said.

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