The principal of a secondary school is reported to have apologised after controversially rebuking pupils for wearing “big-sized” crosses, while a state minister has upheld the right of Christian school children to wear necklaces bearing the cross.
The Borneo Post reported that it had learned that the principal of SMK Serian had apologised for his action. It gave no source for its report.
However, it reported state welfare minister Fatimah Abdullah as saying that the wearing of religious symbols in school was not prohibited. The only restriction was that they must be worn appropriately.
On Friday, it was reported that a schoolgirl was ordered to remove the cross she wore under her uniform while another student was ordered to remove a rosary, also worn under her uniform.
Fatimah, herself a former school principal, said the controversy would not have happened if the principal had been more careful in his choice of words when reprimanding the students.
“In this case, however, it could be that the principal had talked to the student in a way that was ‘tidak berhemah’ (lack of courtesy). Based on what I read from the report, the way he reprimanded the student could have been done more decently.”
Borneo Post said the Association of Churches in Sarawak had reported receiving a complaint from a pupil on Thursday, but it was withdrawn by the same student on Friday morning.
Fatimah also said this issue should not be blown out of proportion, to the point that it could cause division not only among Sarawakians, but also between Sarawakians and Peninsular Malaysians.
She said that “based on what I was told, the principal had been reprimanded” by the district education office.
The controversy has drawn calls for the principal, a non-Sarawakian, to be replaced by a local who would have better understanding of the local environment.
DAP Serian chief Edward Andrew Luwak said the action by the school principal, who hails from Peninsular Malaysia, demonstrated ignorance of the local situation.
PBDS Baru vice-president Andrew Puro had lodged a report about the matter. He said he was upset and saddened by what he read on Facebook.
Christians form a majority of Sarawak’s population.
FMT Reporters Online