IGP should apologise to all teachers on behalf of the "raw and over-zealous" police officer who had tarnished the image of the teaching profession by arresting a teacher in full view of the pupils and parents and give a solemn undertaking that there would be no repetition of such incidents

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Friday):
Although the Johore Bahru SRJK Foon Yew furore over the public arrest of a teacher by police for caning pupils has been resolved between the parent who lodged the police report and the teacher concerned, the issue and repercussions arising from the incident has not ended.

This is because the issue is not just a matter concerning the parent and teacher in the case which could be resolved and ended by their reaching an amicable settlement, but spill-over effects concern the place, image and honour of the teaching profession in our society as well as the proper relationship between the police and the teaching profession.

This is why the issue has now escalated to the National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) taking a decision that teachers would "no longer discipline our students" and to instruct its 70,000 members to stop meting out corporal punishment on students no matter how severe their offences.

The sentiments expressed by the NUTP Secretary-General, N. Siva Subramaniam reflecting the frustrations and exasperations of teachers on this matter are understandable, for it is not just NUTP but all thinking Malaysians who find the explanation by the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor that the probationary inspector who arrested the 33-year-old teacher in SRJK Johore Bahru Foon Yew 5 as being due to being "raw and overzealous" as completely unacceptable.

The NUTP and society at large are fully justified in expressing their outrage that teachers are being treated like common criminals which tarnishes the image of the teaching profession as a whole.

In the Foon Yew 5 case, the police, after questioning the teacher, took him to the police station in a police Land Rover in the full view of the pupils and parents. The police had earlier rejected the headmasterís offer to take the teacher to the station in his car.

Being "raw and overzealous" can be no justification for over-stepping the bounds of propriety or tarnishing the image of the teaching profession, and the least that should be done is for the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor to publicly apologise to all teachers on behalf of the Royal Malaysian Police and to give a solemn undertaking that there would be repetition of such outrageous behaviour by police officers.

The last time "overzealous" officers who caused a national outrage in the way they exercised the "little powers" (to use the words of the Prime Minister) given to them was in the manner of arrest and prosecution of three Muslim beauty pageant contestants, where Selangor Religious Department (JAIS) officials bought tickets to the show, witnessed the whole proceedings and then at the crowning ceremony went onstage to arrest the three Muslim participants and handcuffed them in full view of the entire audience.

The authorities concerned should be very concerned at the increasing incidence of such "overzealousness" on the part of certain public officials in our country and it is important that such "overzealousness" should be stamped out before they become rampant and oppressive.

In this particular case, the "raw and overzealous" police officer has created a national problem as it had provoked the three-day Third Headmasters Convention which ended in Penang yesterday to adopt five resolutions to boycott health enforcement and auxiliary police duties, sticking only to their official functions to administer, with immediate effect.

Penang Headmasters Council president Ismail Yaakop said the headmastersí main duty was to run schools and ensure pupils received quality education and not to assume jobs as "enforcement officers" and said that the five resolutions are to ensure that headmasters are not "distracted" by outside influences by:

Najib should convene a national conference to restore the honour and dignity of the teaching profession

If the NUTP sticks to its stand that teachers will "no longer discipline students" and headmasters stick strictly to their five-point resolution, then the National Education System will be in the midst of a grave national crisis - as there can be no education without discipline or character building.

A few months ago, the one issue which dominated national concern and debate was the social problems of youths and how central was the role that should be played by the schools and teachers in giving the young generation the proper social guidance and moral direction.

However, government and national concern was short-lived which have since moved on to many other topics, all without concrete results.

We are now faced with a situation where teachers and headmasters are now saying that as a result of unfriendly societal factors, they will only be responsible for providing "quality education" but will have nothing to do with discipline or character-building.

Of course, the net result is that there would also be no "quality education", as education cannot be separated from discipline or character building.

The Education Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak should give very serious attention to this looming educational crisis which, if unresolved, will be completely counter-productive to the national objective to make Malaysia an international centre for academic excellence.

The Education Minister should convene a national conference involving not only teachers and educationists, but also other sectors of society, to consider how to restore the honour and dignity of the teaching profession so that teachers can play a full role in the moulding of a new generation of Malaysians fully prepared to face the challenges of the 21st century.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong