MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Thaqif’s death exposes Malaysia’s ugly underbelly

Those in authority lack moral fibre, are afraid of bearing responsibility and are apparently immune from accountability.

The loss of any child is heartbreaking, but we have anger mixed in with the heartbreak over the death of 11-year-old Mohamed Thaqif Amin because we’re told that he had been tortured at school and suffered considerable pain in the last six weeks of his life.
Fingers are pointing at an assistant warden who apparently has a criminal record and had served time in prison before he was hired by the private school Thaqif went to. It’s too early to say whether he is indeed guilty of causing Thaqif’s death, but for now we must ask whether the school had guidelines for its staff to follow in maintaining discipline. Also, does it conduct background checks on employees whose jobs require contact with pupils?
In fact, why should the principal, the head warden and the teachers be free of blame? If members of the senior staff were appalled at the boys’ treatment, why didn’t they speak out? Why weren’t checks conducted on the health and wellbeing of the boys?
The problem is not just the alleged cruelty of the assistant warden, but the lack of procedures in these types of school. There is also a lack of accountability and a failure to assign specific roles for members of the staff.
Since Thaqif’s death on Wednesday, the denials have been coming in thick and fast. Those who could have prevented it have been quick to absolve themselves of blame. They have closed ranks.
Before the police had even begun investigations, a Johor state executive councillor said the school did nothing wrong. A few hours later, the school said it would assume full responsibility. What’s happening here?
Is it any wonder that we have grown to be such a cynical nation? The people in authority lack moral fibre, are afraid of bearing responsibility and are apparently immune from accountability. We have seen this in the MH370 tragedy, in the murder of the Altantuya Shaariibuu and in Pastor Raymond Koh’s disappearance.
The nation is in shock and the government agencies are scrambling around for excuses. The school is not registered with the Ministry of Education. It’s a religious school, but it’s not under the purview of Jakim, the body that oversees Islamic affairs in Malaysia.
With the public expressing outrage over Thaqif’s death, Jakim has now said it would take charge of the running of private religious schools. A bit late for Thaqif, but it’s better than nothing.
The Minister of Education’s delayed response was pathetic. He said he knew many of these schools were unregulated and that criminal and academic checks were not conducted on their staff. Why did he have to adopt such a dramatic tone to tell us things we already knew?
His first response should have been to close down these schools until a set of guidelines are issued to prevent more Thaqif-type incidents.
Will we all learn a lesson from Thaqif’s death? Let us hope so.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

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