The explanation by Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan behind the change of the name of the St Thomas schools in Kuantan as reported in the article titled, “Ministry: St Thomas school name ended when church took back land” (FMT, 3.12.2017) is contrary to what was previously reported to be the official reason of same and as such, capable of leading to further speculation on the matter.
According to Kamalanathan, the land on which the secondary St Thomas school was located was returned to its owner, a church, after which, “it put an end to the school”. The said Deputy Minister is further quoted as saying, “the name St Thomas ceased the day the church took back the land”.
The above explanation is quite different from the explanation offered by State Health, Human Resources and Special Functions Committee Chairman Datuk Norol Azali Sulaiman who was reported as saying that the name St Thomas was “no longer suitable” and will be changed once the said schools are relocated to a new building.
Kamalanathan’s explanation seems to suggest that the St Thomas schools have ceased to exist whereas Datuk Norol’s explanation seems to suggest that the said schools are merely being relocated.
An obvious question which arises is: how is a school “put to an end” when it is relocated?
I am unaware of any legislation which “puts a school to an end” upon relocation.
The premises of the Penang Free School was initially located in Farquhar Street in Penang but was later relocated to its current premises due to overcrowding. Such relocation did not result in a change of its name.
Similarly, there can be no justification for the change of the name St Thomas merely on account of its relocation. At the end of the day, the government must surely have the discretion of maintaining their names as the schools are government owned.
Furthermore, there is no indication that the church has any objections to the continued use of the name St Thomas (even assuming its consent for the use of such name was required which is highly doubtful).
In the circumstances, I urge Kamalanathan to explain why the use of the name St Thomas cannot be continued when the said schools are relocated as his said explanation above, with the greatest of respect, simply does not make sense upon closer scrutiny.
Dated 4th December, 2017.
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
DEMOCRATIC ACTION PARTY