MCA bids to intervene in Putra lawyer’s lawsuit challenging vernacular schools

MCA secretary-general Datuk Chong Sin Woon said the political party, through the law firm Ben Chan of Solaris Mont Kiara, applied on January 14 for leave to intervene in the lawsuit. — Picture by Saw Siong Feng
MCA secretary-general Datuk Chong Sin Woon said the political party, through the law firm Ben Chan of Solaris Mont Kiara, applied on January 14 for leave to intervene in the lawsuit. — Picture by Saw Siong Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — MCA today announced that it will be seeking to be included in lawyer Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz’s lawsuit to declare vernacular schools unconstitutional.

MCA secretary-general Datuk Chong Sin Woon said the political party, has initiated the process to intervene through the law firm Ben Chan of Solaris Mont Kiara and will be applying for leave to intervene in the lawsuit "in due course".

He explained that MCA was seeking entry due to the potentially far-reaching consequences of Mohd Khairul Azam’s lawsuit.

“Should he succeed, Mohd Khairul Azam’s suit may result in all Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools in Malaysia to be declared unconstitutional, and will face immediate shutdown or forced conversion into Malay-medium schools.

“It is of utmost concern to the MCA, as the MCA is an organisation that upholds, champions and supports the right of the minority races in Malaysia to pursue an education in their preferred vernacular,” Chong said in a statement today.

Chong also noted that Mohd Khairul Azam has been drawing media attention to himself by allegedly initiating such “frivolous” lawsuits to “stir up racial tensions”.

“His gleeful attitude announcing that he had “won” when SMK Pusat Bandar Puchong 1 issue flared is proof of his true political intentions. The MCA will not stand silently by,” Chong said, referring to the recent controversy sparked by Mohd Khairul Azam’s after he demanded the removal of the Chinese New Year decorations at the school.

Mohd Khairul Azam is also the vice-president of Malay party Putra, which is headed and founded by Malay rights group Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali.

Putra vice-president Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz addresses a press conference at the party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur December 26, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Putra vice-president Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz addresses a press conference at the party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur December 26, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

On Tuesday, three other groups — the Chinese Language Council, the Tamil Language Association and the Confederation of Former Tamil School Pupils —- also reportedly filed for leave to intervene in the same lawsuit by Mohd Khairul Azam.

This lawsuit is Mohd Khairul Azam’s second attempt to have constitutional schools declared unconstitutional, after having failed in November 2019 at his first attempt to challenge the existence of vernacular schools.

In his latest lawsuit filed on December 17, 2019 against the education minister and Malaysian government, Mohd Khairul Azam claimed Sections 28 and 17 of the Education Act are invalid due to alleged inconsistencies with Act 152 of the Federal Constitution.

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.

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.

There is currently a separate lawsuit filed on December 16, 2019 by Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung (GPMS) and the Islam Education Development Council (Mappim) to challenge the constitutionality of vernacular schools.

*Editor’s note: This story has been amended to reflect MCA’s correction to its earlier statement on its court application.

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