Vernacular schools challenge: 14 groups seek to join separate lawsuit

Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court February 12, 2020. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif
Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court February 12, 2020. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 — A total of 14 groups are seeking to be a part of a lawsuit filed by Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung (GPMS) and the Islam Education Development Council (Mappim) to challenge the constitutionality of vernacular schools, after 13 of the 14 groups’ previous successful attempt in joining another similar lawsuit filed by lawyer Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz.

Today, the law firm for GPMS and Mappim said that the High Court in Kuala Lumpur had this morning heard the applications of the 14 organisations who asked to be interveners in their lawsuit.

According to the law firm, both GPMS and Mappim decided not to object to the application by the 14 groups with the condition that they should only be named as interveners and not as defendants.

“GPMS and Mappim took such a stand (to not object), as they are of the view that the issue to be raised in this case is a public interest case and involves constitutional questions regarding language and unity, and therefore the involvement of any parties that feel they are also interested parties is welcomed,” the law firm said in a statement.

The law firm said High Court judge Datuk Mohd Sofian Abd Razak has fixed May 21, 2.30pm for hearing further submissions by lawyers regarding the applications to intervene in the lawsuit.

The law firm said the 14 who had applied to be interveners in GPMS and Mappim’s lawsuit include political parties Gerakan, MCA, MIC, the Malaysian Chinese Language Council, Persatuan Tamil Neri Malaysia, Gabungan Persatuan Bekas Pelajar Sekolah Tamil Malaysia (Pertama).

The others are United Chinese School Teachers’ Association of Malaysia (Jiao Zong), United Chinese School Committees’ Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong), Chong Hwa Independent High School of Kuala Lumpur, Gabungan Penulis Nasional, Persatuan Thamizhar Malaysia, Persatuan Tamilar Thirunal Perak, Persatuan Gabungan Kebajikan Guru-guru Bersara Sekolah Tamil Malaysia and the political party Putra.

Out of these 14 groups, 13 had previously successfully intervened and became defendants in Mohd Khairul Azam’s separate lawsuit.

The only difference in the list of inteveners is that Gabungan Penulis Nasional was seeking to intervene in the GPMS and Mappim lawsuit but not in Mohd Khairul Azam’s lawsuit, while Pertubuhan Generasi Baru Melaka is the one that sought to intervene in Mohd Khairul Azam’s lawsuit but not in the lawsuit today.

GPMS and Mappim were represented today by lawyers Haniff Khatri, Malcolm Fernandez, Abi Mursyidin, Aidil Khalid, while senior federal counsel S. Narkunavathy had represented the two being sued — the education minister and the Malaysian government.

Two other cases

In the same statement, the law firm acting for GPMS and Mappim said the High Court was today informed that an application will be made to have two separate but similar lawsuits filed by Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) and Ikatan Guru-Guru Muslim Malaysia (I-Guru) heard together with the lawsuit by GPMS and Mappim.

“This is to ensure that all parties can merge in one action, without requiring for the same cases to be heard separately,” the law firm said.

Isma’s lawsuit was reportedly filed in Kuala Lumpur, while I-Guru’s lawsuit also challenging vernacular schools was reportedly filed in Kelantan.

The law firm representing GPMS and Mappim said the two organisations supported efforts to increase mastery of a third language such as Mandarin, Tamil, Arab or Kadazan by having these languages taught as a separate subject, but added that they rejected the use of “foreign languages” as the medium of instruction in publicly-funded public education institutions as they believe that it clashes with the position of the Malay language as the national language.

The latest in Mohd Khairul Azam’s case

As for Mohd Khairul Azam’s case, news reports have said that it is scheduled to be heard on May 5.

Mohd Khairul Azam was, however, reported to have recently sought to withdraw his lawsuit.

When contacted today by Malay Mail, Mohd Khairul Azam said that the High Court in Kuala Lumpur will decide on April 23 on his bid to withdraw the lawsuit.

Related Articles