NEW TASK FORCE
It comprises local councils, ministers and other relevant authorities
DEPUTY Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said suggestions and recommendations submitted by the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) set up to investigate the fire that killed 27 students of Sekolah Agama Rakyat Taufikiah Khairiah Al-Halimiah, also known as Pondok Pak Ya in Yan, Kedah, in 1989, were not implemented.
He said the special task force set up to investigate the fire at Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school (DQIT) would revisit suggestions and recommendations by the RCI on safety requirements for religious schools.
Zahid, who is also home minister, said fires at tahfiz and religious schools harmed the reputation of the nation’s education system, as well as the image of Islamic education.
“Such incidents give a bad image to local councils and enforcement agencies that issue compulsory guidelines to tahfiz and religious schools,” he said after attending a National Transformation 2050 (TN50) dialogue on safety and security at Dewan Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar at the Police Training Centre (Pulapol) here yesterday.
Present were Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed and Universiti Utara Malaysia Vice-Chancellor Professor Datuk Seri Dr Mohamed Mustafa Ishak, who was the moderator of the dialogue session participated by representatives of more than 100 non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Zahid said the special task force announced on Thursday would hold its first meeting next Tuesday.
The special task force comprised ministers related to education and religious schools affairs, as well as enforcement agencies from local councils and other relevant authorities.
“We hope that the recommendations on Pondok Pak Ya’s findings will be used as guidelines for religious and tahfiz schools nationwide,” he said.
On whether tahfiz and religious schools should be put under the purview of the Federal Government, Zahid said it was not feasible because these institutions were under the supervision of the state Religious Departments (JAIN) and Majlis Agama Islam Negeri (MAIN).
“(The jurisdiction) should be adhered to, but we must make coordinated efforts to prevent untoward incidents.”
On the possibility that the government would require all tahfiz and religious schools to be registered with an agency regulated by the government, Zahid said the government had the National Tahfiz School Education Policy, which was under the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim), but it had yet to be fully implemented.
He said Jakim only had the power to coordinate as enforcement and execution came under MAIN and JAIN.
“Majlis Kebangsaan Hal Ehwal Agama Islam should make the coordination of tahfiz and religious schools as one of its agendas in their upcoming meeting.”
Zahid said the formation of the special task force did not mean that the government was interfering, or taking over the administration of the religious schools from state governments and state religious departments, but to outline suggestions for improvement.
“I will chair the special task force and InsyaAllah, I will ask for permission from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the latest by tomorrow morning (today). This is not to take over anyone’s power. This involves life, enough is enough.”
On the speculation that gas canisters were found at the scene, Zahid said discussions on the possible causes of the fire had been held with Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim and city police chief Datuk Amar Singh.
“We should not speculate until investigations have been completed. The findings will be submitted to the special task force and it will announce to the public whether the incident involves elements of crime or elements outside of technical errors, including short-circuit.”
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi with family members of the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school fire victims at the National Institute of Forensic Medicine of Hospital Kuala Lumpur yesterday.