It must be borne in mind that the Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan’s remark that the 14-year girl M. Vasanthapriya had suicidal tendencies was not a simple or innocent remark, but could be part of his larger agenda of trying to cover up the educational establishment whether the school or the state education department.
This is one rare occasion that I concur with the MIC president, S. Subramaniam for making a decent and responsible remark about his colleague Kamalanathan who has gone hay wire on the matter of the girl who died recently.
Subramaniam publicly criticised Kamalanathan for saying that the 14-year girl who was accused of stealing a handphone of her class teacher had a history of self inflicted punishment.
Without the benefit of the findings of the investigations, Kamalanathan in a reply to a question posed by a reporters said that: “Yes, in 2016, she cut her wrist”. The story was then carried in the Sun Daily newspaper. Since this remark, Kamalanathan was subjected to criticisms leading to calls for his immediate resignation.
Subramaniam who is well-known for his reticence on matters of public interest has done the right thing by openly admonishing Kamalanathan for passing a remark about the girl which is not only inappropriate by highly insensitive about the girl who attempted suicide for being accused of stealing the handphone of her class teacher. She died a few days after she was admitted to a hospital in Penang.
Subramaniam said that Kamalanathan was not fair to the family and urged the latter not to create unnecessary doubts about the girl. He further reminded his colleagues in the MIC to be careful in making statements and not to “fall into the pit dug” by the media.
He also added that some of his colleagues in the MIC lacked the wisdom and experience in dealing and responding to matters of public interest.
R. Muniandy, the father of the girl, was the person who was most aggrieved by the insensitive remark of Kamalanthan. He lashed out at the deputy minister for being irresponsible in making the terrible remark about his daughter.
He said that he knew his daughter better than anybody and there was no need for Kamalanathan to make such a remark about this daughter at time when the whole family was grieving about the terrible loss of their daughter.
The Chief Minister of Penang Lim Guan Eng who was upset by the remark advised Kamalanathan to seek counselling so that he could refrain from making such acts in the future.
Is Subramaniam going to take action against Kamalanathan for his crude remark or is he going to sweep the matter under the carpet as he had done for other important public issues?
Perhaps this is the only chance for Subramaniam to redeem the reputation of the MIC in a meaningful way.
Some are saying that the past record of Kamalanathan is something that concerns the public. As an establishment man, he has the bad or blind habit of protecting and covering up for those in power. Issues of justice and fairness are not the main concerns of this deputy education minister. So much so, he has been labelled as the “hand kisser”.
In this respect, his remark about the girl having past suicidal tendencies could be an attempt to defend the actions of the class teacher or for that matter defend the educational establishment such as the school and the state education department.