PUTRAJAYA, July 5 — The High Court judge erred when he ruled that the use of Mandarin and Tamil as the medium of instruction in vernacular schools was valid and constitutional, the Court of Appeal heard today.

Lawyer Muhammad Haniff Khatri Abdullah told the Court of Appeal’s three-member bench that Judge Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali was also wrong when he decided that Article 152 (1) (a) (b) of the Federal Constitution protected the use of Chinese and Tamil languages in vernacular schools.

He said vernacular schools are considered a public authority and those schools must use Bahasa Melayu as the medium of instruction as provided under Article 152 (1) of the Federal Constitution states Bahasa Melayu as the national language.

Muhammad Haniff said Justice Mohd Nazlan also erred in law and facts when he held that vernacular schools were not public authority.

“The national language is one of the primary and important ways to achieve unity among ethnic groups and the different school systems and the use of different languages as mediums of instruction have long divided the ethnic groups in Malaysia,” he submitted before the three-member bench comprising Justices Datuk Supang Lian, Datuk M.Gunalan and Datuk Azizul Azmi Adnan.

Muhammad Haniff, who is representing the Islamic Education Development Council (Mappim) and the Confederation of Malaysian Writers Association (Gapena), also said Justice Mohd Nazlan denied his clients’ right to call witnesses to testify when he decided to dispose of the lawsuits by way of points of law without calling witnesses under Order 14A of the Rules of Court 2012.

He also submitted that the decision to allow the Chinese and Tamil national-type schools to continue operating using Mandarin and Tamil as the medium of instruction contradicted the policy that was approved by the government.

Muhammad Haniff was submitting in the appeals brought Mappim, Gapena, Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) and Ikatan Guru-Guru Muslim Malaysia (I-Guru).

The four organisations have filed lawsuits seeking a declaration that Sections 2, 17 and 28 of the Education Act permitting the establishment of Chinese and Tamil national schools which conduct teaching and learning using Mandarin and Tamil as the main languages is inconsistent with Article 152 (1) of the Federal Constitution.

On December 29, 2021, High Court judge Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali (now Court of Appeal judge) dismissed the lawsuits brought by the Federation of Peninsular Malay Students (GPMS), Mappim, Gapena and Isma. GPMS did not file the appeal to the Court of Appeal.

He ruled that the existence and establishment of vernacular schools and the use of Mandarin and Tamil languages in those schools are constitutional.

On May 29, last year, the Kota Baru High Court judicial commissioner Abazafree Mohd Abbas (now High Court judge) also ruled that the existence of vernacular schools is constitutional and he dismissed the suit filed by I-Guru.

In the suit filed in December 2019, GPMS, Mappim and Gapena and Isma sued several parties including the government and 13 other defendants. Among them were Chinese educationist groups Dong Zong and Jiao Zong, Persatuan Thamizhar Malaysia, Persatuan Tamilar Thurunal (Perak) and four political parties — MIC, MCA, Gerakan and Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia.

As for I-Guru, the organisation sued the education minister, the government of Malaysia, seeking a declaration that Section 28 and Section 17 of the Education Act 1996 are inconsistent with Article 152 of the Federal Constitution and that it is void and of no effect.

The Chinese Language Council, the Tamil Language Association and the Confederation of Former Tamil School Pupils, MCA and the United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) were allowed to become interveners in the suit filed by I-Guru.

Justice Supang fixed tomorrow for case management to set hearing dates to continue the hearing of the appeals. — Bernama