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Sunday January 19, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday January 19, 2014 MYT 9:23:40 PM
by priya kulasagaran
THE saga of SJK(T) Seaport seems to be a never-ending story.
The school made headlines earlier this month when parents of 24 pupils decided to start “classes” at its old premises in SS7, Kelana Jaya despite the school having relocated to Kampung Lindungan.
Staffed by volunteer teachers and a self-appointed headmaster, parents are illegally holding classes in the Kelana Jaya building and have even resorted to breaking into the office to get the water and electricity going for the benefit of the pupils.
But the school has been caught in controversy for years – especially during the ground-breaking ceremony for the new building in 2008.
When attending the ceremony, then MIC president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu was heckled by protesters objecting to the school’s new site because its land had been reduced from what was originally agreed to.
Adding to the anger of residents was the failure to build a cluster of schools including a Tamil school at Kampung Lindungan, Petaling Jaya, for the Desa Mentari residents.
However, the land was then used for low-cost housing instead.
Three years later, then Seri Setia MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said the school’s parent-teacher association had agreed to the relocation after more land was allotted to the school.
Nik Nazmi also said Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS) had donated RM 1.2mil for the school’s construction in 2008.
Dissenting parents now however, say that they had never agreed to the relocation — publicly, their reasons have evolved over the years.
First, it was the high-cost of transportation for their children, but more recently, they want the old school building to stay because they see it as their community’s heritage.
Parents say that there are about 120 Indian families living in the area, and a good number of them are former workers of the old Seaport Estate.
These arguments would be familiar to those of other Tamil schools originating on estate land.
Even though many of these former estates were taken over by the government or housing developers in the 70s, many such Tamil schools tend to be stuck in a grey area as they did not own the land they were on, and were operating in “temporary buildings”.
The old SJK(T) Seaport sits on land the size of four bungalow lots, its simple one-storey building dwarfed by plush upper middle-class mansions.
All the plots of land are owned by PKNS, which now wants it back to build four double-storey homes.
PKNS corporate communications manager Ishak Hashim said the corporation will directly speak to parents to coax them to move to the new school building.
“Since this involves children, we want to be as civil as possible about this.
“But if the parents remain stubborn, we have no choice but to take legal action,” he said.
Although the dissenting parents claim that the Selangor state government had “no problems” with handing over the Kelana Jaya land to parents, Ishak said that PKNS had not received any notice of such plans from the state authorities.
About 4km away at the school’s new premises in Kampung Lindungan, near Desa Mentari in Sunway, parents said they are pleased with the upgraded building.
“The old school was cramped and stuffy – when he was studying there, my son refused to use the toilet until he came home, because he once saw a small snake in there!
“I don’t understand why those parents want to stay on.
“Don’t they want their children to study in a better environment?
“Even the school has agreed to help with transportation fees; no one thought of helping us when we were sending our children there,” said Rina* who lives in Kampung Lindungan.
Another parent, Rani*, claims that she was “threatened” for choosing to move her child to the new school, although she did not specify the nature of the threats or who made the alleged threats against her.
But Kumar Vanathan, one of the parents standing by the old school, rubbishes these claims and said that the old school building is safe.
“These are just made up stories to discredit us.
“We are not asking for the school in Kampung Lindungan to close, we just want another school here,” he said.
All parties involved said politics should not affect education matters, but with prime land and questions of identity involved, this is indeed a political tug-of-war.
Lost amidst arguments over development and preservation, are the fate of the pupils themselves.
With the looming legal action by PKNS, and parents planning further protests, the situation is set to become even murkier.
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