By Derek Fernandez

The Prime Minister and Cabinet are to be commended for their timely and welcomed intervention  into the non-renewal of lease for the Convent Bukit Nanas school (CBN) matter.

The recent revelation as reported in the media by a former minister in charge of Natural Resources and the present Minister of the Federal Territory that they were unaware or not fully informed at the relevant time as to the lease extension issue for the CBN had raised concerns about the formulation and implementation of Federal Government land and education policies for mission schools.

It appears, as reported in the media, that the policy purportedly used to justify the non-renewal of the CBN lease by some Federal land Agencies was not one formulated at cabinet level and may have contradicted the earlier publicly declared policy by then deputy prime minister and education minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, as reported in the Star on 25 January 2013.

It was reported in the Star (2013) that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had stated that the Ministry of Education had no objection to extending the leases for Mission Schools as long as they were used for education.  

Additionally, it was also reported that the then Director General of Education, Tan Sri Abdul Ghafar Mahmud, stated that a circular would be sent to all State Education Directors telling them that Mission School authorities should be consulted when appointing school heads.  

Since that date there appears to have been no publicly announced change in policy. Any such change would have to be made by the cabinet after considering all factors and the input from stakeholders, since the mission schools would have taken steps in line with that policy.

Certainly it is not within the power of Federal Land agencies or even a single ministry itself to change such policies without Cabinet approval.

In view of the above, it was just and proper that the PM and cabinet intervened  to reverse  the decision of the Federal Lands Commissioner and grant an extension of the lease for CBN.

This is consistent with the lauded policy of the government for mission schools to have a role in nation building, a role they continue to perform with dedication and distinction.