GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government should do everything within its power to preserve the island's three convent schools from being closed down or relocated as they are a part of the country's history.
Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh urged the state government to take the necessary steps to acquire the said land under the Land Acquisition Act 1960 in the event the land owners insisted on taking it back.
"There is no doubt that this option is open to the state government as it is certainly in the public interest – and for public purpose – to preserve the said schools as they are iconic structures and will continue to contribute immensely to the cause of education in the state, as they have in the past.
"No doubt, land owners would have to be compensated under the said Act if this were to happen but it may be the only way to save the schools and maintain them as they are," he said in a statement on Saturday (June 22).
Ramkarpal, who is a lawyer, also took note of the schools' history.
"SK Convent Light Street and SMK Convent Light Street is the oldest girl's school in South East Asia and certainly a pride of Penang and is fittingly located in its heritage zone as well.
"SMK Convent Pulau Tikus is also historically significant, having opened its doors way back in 1929," he said.
Ramkarpal also urged the schools' alumni and their respective Parents and Teachers Associations to come out strongly in support state government acquisition of the land.
"It would be very sad indeed if the schools no longer stand where they are … more so for Penangites," he said.
Pulau Tikus assemblyman Chris Lee Chun Kit also urged the Sisters of the Infant Jesus to reconsider plans to close Convent Light Street and Convent Pulau Tikus.
"As the Pulau Tikus assemblyman, and someone who grew up here, I consider Convent Pulau Tikus as the heartbeat of Pulau Tikus.
"I went to St. Xavier's Branch School nearby for my primary education and both St Xavier's and Convent Pulau Tikus are landmarks in the constituency," he said.
Lee also hoped that the heritage buildings and the identity of the convent schools would be protected.
"Although the land is outside the control of the government, I hope the landowners reconsider their decision," he added.
The Star recently reported that state Education Department director Dr Mahanom Mat Sam said the three schools will be closed down and the land returned to the Sisters of Infant Jesus Malaysia, who is the owner.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yow had appealed to the Education Ministry to relocate the island's three convent schools which will be shut down in 2024 and said that the office of the Sisters of the Infant Jesus has written to him seeking a meeting on the closure.
He added that he will be meeting the Lady Superior of the Society of Saint Maur, Sister Mary Thresa Chua, in his office on July 19.