G25 welcomes the announcement from the Deputy Prime Minister for an immediate inquiry into the tragedy at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school in Kampung Datuk Keramat and hopes that a special committee will be formed to investigate into the matter without delay.
G25 has among its members retired senior judges, civil servants and diplomats who can volunteer to sit as members of the committee. They are willing to sacrifice their time to assist in finding out how and why the tragedy happened and the lessons that can be learnt so that the religious department in all states can exercise proper regulatory control over these private religious schools.
The religious authorities should not resist the open inquiry into the manner in which private religious schools are run. Indeed, all parties should support the setting up of the special committee proposed by the Deputy Prime Minister because it is in the public’s interest to ensure that the founders and principals of these schools be made accountable for any failures to provide safety for the children under their charge. This is normal practice in democratic and civil societies, and reflects a caring and responsible nation. Malaysia should not exempt religious schools from the principles of common justice or hide the underlying problems of religious education from public scrutiny as this will only lead to similar tragedies recurring in the future. All private religious schools should be subjected to minimum standards for boarding institutions including a proper teacher/student ratio and adherence to fire and safety standards. It has been reported that more than 200 fires have occurred at Tahfiz schools nationwide since 2015. With a problem of such magnitude these schools whether they come under the purview of the Ministry of Education or otherwise should as a minimum be immediately subjected to an inspection on the fire and safety standards before another tragedy occurs.