KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — The Penang government should acquire the land on which three convent schools — one of which is the oldest girls’ mission school in the country — are located on the island instead of looking to relocate them, Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh said today.
The lawyer and federal lawmaker noted that land falls under the state government’s jurisdiction, adding that the DAP-led state government should be able to acquire the land using the Land Acquisition Act of 1960 in the event the property owner insists on claiming it for redevelopment.
“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 said schools as they are iconic structures in the state and will continue to contribute immensely to the cause of education in the state, as they have in the past.
“For this reason, I urge the state government to take the necessary steps to acquire the said land under the Land Acquisition Act, 1960,” Ramkarpal said in a statement.
The DAP legal bureau chief said the convent schools should continue as they are due to their historical importance, not only to Penang but Malaysia.
“No doubt, the 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.
Ramkarpal was responding to Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s appeal to the Education Ministry to consider relocating the three mission schools which face closure within five years if the land owner takes back the three plots.
Chow suggested the three schools — SRK Convent Light Street, SMK Convent Light Street (CLS) and SMK Convent Pulau Tikus (CPT) — could be relocated to another part of the island or the mainland half of Penang.
CLS, established on April 12, 1852 by the Sisters of the Holy Infant Jesus Mission, is believed to be the oldest mission girls’ school in the country and currently sits within the George Town Unesco Heritage Site.
It started as an orphanage with a baby hatch at the front entrance so unwanted babies could be safely placed there. It also used to be a boarding school for girls from wealthy families.
The Holy Infant Jesus Mission bought Government House along with its expansive land in 1859; this is where Francis Light lived when he first arrived in George Town.
The historical Francis Light’s well was dug for Light’s use and still remains on the school grounds till today.
CPT was established by Reverend Mother Saint Hermine in 1922 as the Sekolah Convent Infant Jesus.
It was originally located where the present SRK CPT is located before a new building was built for SMK Convent Pulau Tikus in 1950.
SRK CPT will not be affected as it is located on government land.