Press Release: On religious freedom and rights of non-Muslim students at Labuan Matriculation College
PRESS RELEASE 19 December 2012
DIRECTOR OF MATRICULATION DIVISION, MINISTRY OF EDUCATION CALL ON SABAH BISHOPS
A meeting between the Director of Matriculation Division, Ministry of Education and the Catholic Bishops of Sabah was held on 13 December 2012, at the Catholic Diocesan Centre in Kota Kinabalu to discuss the issues and concerns raised in the letter dated 5th October 2012, regarding the infringement of religious freedom and rights of non-Muslim students at Labuan Matriculation College (LMC). The letter was published in The Herald dated October 28, 2012.
The entourage was headed by Dr Sariah Abdul Jalil from Matriculation Division and included the Director of LMC, Tuan Sawang @ Rizal bin Amit, Deputy Director Encik Kamarudin Mansur together with five other key personnel from LMC, while the Catholic Church of Sabah was headed by Archbishop John Wong, Bishop Cornelius Piong and Bishop Julius Gitom.
At the meeting, the Bishops reiterated that since the Christian students made up almost half the population of the students in LMC (with about 30% being Catholics), the Church wanted an assurance from LMC that the rights of non-Muslim students are protected and respected, vis-a-vis freedom to profess and practice their own religion. The discussion on the protection of rights for the students also included the rights of the students to a safe and conducive learning environment, one that is free from harassment, intimidation and pressure. The right to attend religious services without students losing out on additional classes or activities conducted by the College on weekends was also highlighted. Another key aspect discussed was the right of the students to hold discussions, prayer meetings and services in the College and to form association as provided for under Section 8 of the Educational Institutions (Discipline) Act 1976. In relation to this, the Bishops requested that a space be provided in the College to cater for such activities. The right to protection for non-Muslim lecturers and students who speak out against religious harassment was also raised with LMC.
The two hour discussion was held in a frank manner and in a cordial atmosphere in keeping with the spirit of dialogue, while affirming that the Church is committed to ensuring that the religious rights of all non-Muslims are not being eroded.
Consequent to this meeting, the Bishops were invited to submit a letter to Dr. Sariah, outlining the above requisite assurances which will be included as an addendum to her report to the higher authorities.