Row over youth scheme

Ian Stewart

A NEW conflict has arisen between the Government and Kelantan, a state controlled by Muslim fundamentalists, who have condemned a national youth programme, Rakan Muda, for encouraging 'activities between the sexes'.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he regretted the state's attitude, which would deprive Kelantan youth of the opportunities the programme offered.

Kelantan is the only state not under the control of the National Front, the ruling federal coalition. After the state's voters returned Parti Islam seMalaysia (PAS) to office in the recent general elections, Dr Mahathir accused PAS of misrepresenting Islam and deviating from its teachings.

Kuala Lumpur and Kelantan have been at odds over a number of issues, including the state's planned introduction of traditional Islamic laws, which the Government blocked.

Mohamed Daud, chairman of the Kelantan Islamic Development, Education and Propagation Committee, said the state did not want youths to take part in the Rakan Muda programme because some aspects were against the state's policies.

'It encourages activities between the sexes, which we discourage,' he said. It also encouraged females to take part in sport, which the state opposed.

He said youth would be advised to enrol instead in programmes run by the Kelantan Islamic Foundation.

Dr Mahathir said the state could not bar young people from taking part in Rakan Muda. However, it could choose not to co-operate.