KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 ― DAP will seek to defend the continued existence of vernacular schools, following a lawsuit by two groups seeking the courts to declare the use of Mandarin and Tamil as the medium of instruction in such schools as unconstitutional.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said the party was gravely concerned about the lawsuit by Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung (GPMS) and the Islam Education Development Council (Mappim), with the two “pro-Opposition” groups looking to have vernacular schools declared illegal for allegedly breaching the Federal Constitution.
“For the last 62 years since Merdeka in 1957, the existence of Chinese and Tamil schools have never been questioned and have received public funding,” Lim, who is also Bagan MP, said in a statement today.
Lim cautioned that the lawsuit against the Education Ministry and Malaysian government could be harmful to the country.
“DAP views this as a dangerous development that can not only threaten the existence of Tamil and Chinese schools but also jeopardise the national unity and harmony of our multi-racial society,” he said.
Lim said DAP — which is part of the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition — would raise this matter in the ministers’ weekly meeting.
“DAP will defend vigorously the constitutional right of Chinese and Tamil schools to exist, by bringing up in the final Cabinet meeting tomorrow that the Government must instruct the Attorney General to mount a muscular opposition to this legal suit.
“At the same time, DAP will also seek to intervene legally in the suit on behalf of vernacular schools and has instructed the chairman of DAP Legal Bureau and MP for Bukit Gelugor [Ramkarpal Singh] to provide legal representation,” said Lim, who is also the finance minister.
What the two lawsuits are about
Yesterday, the two groups filed their lawsuit in the High Court, claiming that Section 2, 17, 28 of the Education Act allowing for the use of Mandarin and Tamil in vernacular schools were against the Federal Court’s Article 152, while also seeking for vernacular schools to be declared as contravening several other constitutional provisions.
The two groups reportedly supported the teaching of languages such as Mandarin, Tamil, Arabic, Kadazan, Japanese and Korean as subjects instead of as the main medium instruction in publicly-funded schools, arguing that it would otherwise conflict with the Malay language’s position as the national language.
Today, lawyer Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz mounted a new attempt to challenge the constitutionality of vernacular schools by filing a fresh lawsuit at the High Court, after having been told by the Federal Court last month to initiate his challenge at the High Court.
Mohd Khairul Azam’s lawsuit filed today is against the education minister and Malaysian government, and also seeks for the courts to declare Section 17 and 28 of the Education Act as contradicting Article 152 of the Federal Constitution.
What the provisions are about
The Federal Constitution’s Article 152(1)(a) states 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.
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.
Section 17 also states that educational institutions that do not use the national language as the main medium of instruction are required to teach it as a compulsory subject, while 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.