‘Fornication, tudung, praying under a tree’ go viral

Education Ministry pledges to investigate Labuan Matriculation College which is in the news again for all the wrong reasons.

mary yap_LMC_300LABUAN: Deputy Education Minister Mary Yap, according to a media update, has pledged to investigate the Labuan Matriculation College (LMC), no stranger to controversies, for being in the news again for all the wrong reasons.

“These are serious allegations. I have instructed the college officers to investigate. We want to ascertain if there is any truth in the allegations. They will report back to me,” said Yap on several incidents at the college which have since gone viral on social media.

In the first incident, students were “encouraged” to take part in an “Avoid Fornication” programme, sponsored by a major oil and gas company as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR), and conducted by a training and consultancy agency for the third time on the island. The two-day programme, conducted over the weekend was spread over four sessions. Three such events have been held so far.

The latest is on the purported conversion of three Christian students – a girl from Sabah and two girls from Sarawak – being forced to convert to Islam.

The most controversial of the latest incident was Christian students being denied facilities at the college and being forced to pray under a tree. They were also forced to don the tudung and wear songkok if they wished to participate in the Students’ Parliament.

The unhappiness expressed in the social media was mostly about the students not being allowed to use any facility or room inside the college for prayers.

“The poor students are forced to say their prayers under the sun or tree in the compound,” went one comment. “Even then, the security guard would harass them to hurry up, forcing them to stop even before they can finish praying.”

Another comment reminded readers that the Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of worship, there was no religion in Sabah and Sarawak as per the state constitutions and constitutional documents like the 20/18 Points and the Malaysia Agreement 1963, and the Federation was secular in nature despite Article 3(1) on Islam.

“This is ridiculous,” said another comment on the incidents, especially when the nation’s leaders keep reiterating the Federal Constitution”.

A Church source in Kota Kinabalu said that a Christian lecturer at the college gave the director a copy of a letter the Education Ministry had written on the incident to the Catholic Church in Sabah. The director reportedly replied that he had no instructions from the Education Ministry to allow Christian students to use facilities at the college to pray.

Local media reported that the college’s director could not be reached for comment despite several calls. His secretary was quoted as saying that he was “too busy”.

The College is already under investigation for a previous reported conversion incident, under the same director, of Christian students from Sabah and Sarawak being forced to convert to Islam and three students having succumbed in the process.

There was a meeting between the college and the Inter-Church Committee Labuan after the incident and an investigation.

In Oct 2012, Catholic Bishops in Sabah attached a report, prepared by the Sabah Catholic Diocesan Centre, to a letter calling for an investigation into widespread complaints that Christians students in institutions of higher learning owned by the government were under pressure to convert to Islam.

In December 2012, the Education Ministry which denied the allegations, held a meeting with the Catholic Diocesan Centre to assuage their fears.

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