Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (centre) has expressed sadness over the tragic fire incident involving a tahfiz centre in Kuala Lumpur, which killed at least 23 students and two wardens this morning. Pix by Nadim Bokhari

SIBU: Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has expressed sadness over the tragic fire incident involving a tahfiz centre in Kuala Lumpur, which killed at least 23 students and two wardens this morning.

Zahid, who is on a working trip here, said he will return to Kuala Lumpur immediately to check on the situation Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz later today.

According to preliminary report, Zahid said the operator of the centre had never registered with the Education Ministry.

He said checks is being done to ascertain if the centre had been registered with the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council, Yayasan Pondok Malaysia or Yayasan Pintar.

“Regardless if the centre is privately-run by groups or individuals, the government will not compromise with this matter as it has involved loss of lives of many children.

“In fact, I had stressed the importance of safety measures during a coordination meeting with operators of tahfiz centres and Islamic religious schools sometime ago.

“This is not the first time such incident had happened, hence, this issue must be addressed,” Zahid told reporters during a media briefing on his visit to the division at the Sibu Airport here today.

Present were Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, the ministry’s director-general Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof and State Education, Science and Technology Research Minister Datuk Seri Michael Manyin Jawong.

To avoid recurrence of the tragedy befell on students of Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz, Zahid urged all privately-run tahfiz centres and Islamic religious schools to register their institution with the Islamic Religious Councils at the respective states.

By registering to the councils, said Zahid, operators of the schools are required to adhere to the safety requirements imposed by the authorities to avoid untoward incidents.

“However, there are operators of tahfiz centres who are adamant and refused to register (with the Islamic religious councils). The operators fear that the council will interfere with the education system and syllabus taught of their respective centres.

“This is not the case since the operation of tahfiz centres and Islamic religious schools is under the purview of the Islamic Religious Councils for the respective states, which has been enshrined in the Federal Constitution

“And we are the Government which upholds the Federal Constitution.

“We want operators to register for the sake of their centre and students. We want their students to study in safe environment and have access to all the facilities available,” he said, adding that there are 50,000 students at tahfiz centres nationwide.

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