Lawyer says challenge against vernacular schools not over yet, to file suit again in High Court

Mohd Khairul sought a declaration from the Federal Court that it was unconstitutional for Parliament to pass an amendment to Sections 17 and 28 of the Education Act 1996 for the continued existence of vernacular school. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Mohd Khairul sought a declaration from the Federal Court that it was unconstitutional for Parliament to pass an amendment to Sections 17 and 28 of the Education Act 1996 for the continued existence of vernacular school. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 — Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (Putra) vice-president Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz has vowed to pursue his constitutional challenge against vernacular schools, despite the Federal Court dismissing his application for leave today.

The lawyer said he will continue his challenge with another suit, this time in the High Court, after the Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed said that the matter should have commenced there rather than the apex court.

“On the advice of my lawyers, I urge all parties to be patient because this challenge is not over and I will take the matter to the High Court of Malaya with a different approach.

“There are no losers or winners following the Federal Court’s ruling today because there has been no decision, whether it’s substantive or on merit, regarding the status of vernacular schools by the Federal Court,” Mohd Khairul said in a statement.

This is despite Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching saying today that she hopes the plaintiff will stop their actions to challenge vernacular schools.

In his motion filed on October 23 this year, Mohd Khairul sought a declaration from the Federal Court that it was unconstitutional for Parliament to pass an amendment to Sections 17 and 28 of the Education Act 1996 for the continued existence of vernacular school.

He had filed the motion, naming the government of Malaysia and the education minister as respondents.

He contended that Chinese and Tamil national-type schools established by the minister of education, are contrary to Article 152(1) of the Federal Constitution which states that national language shall be the Malay language.

The Federal Court decided today that the Parliament can formulate laws on education and matters auxiliary to it.

Under the Education Act, Section 17 states that the national language shall be the main medium of instruction in all educational institutions in the National Education System, except for national-type schools created under Section 28 or others given exemption by the education minister.

Also under Section 17, educational institutions that do not use the national language as the main medium of instruction have to teach it as a compulsory subject.

Section 28 enables the education minister to establish both national schools and national-type schools. (National-type schools are defined in the Education Act as primary schools using Chinese or Tamil as the main medium of instruction, and where the national language and English are compulsory subjects.)

A check of the Federal Constitution shows Article 152(1)(a) as stating that the national language shall be the Malay language and that no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (except for official purposes) or from teaching or learning any other language.

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