Crime & Courts

Federal Court affirms legitimacy of vernacular schools [Updated]

PUTRAJAYA: Two non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can no longer proceed with their legal bid to challenge the use of Tamil and Mandarin as medium of teaching and the validity of vernacular schools.

A three-member bench led by Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan in a 2-1 majority decision, dismissed the application by the two NGOs to obtain leave to pursue their appeal at the top court.

The two NGOs are the Islamic Education Development Council (Mappim) and Confederation of Malaysian Writers Association (Gapena).

Lim in her ruling said the appellants failed to cross the threshold required under Section 96 of Courts of Judicature Act.

She said the applicant failed to satisfy the top court to use its discretion to grant them leave (permission) and hear the appeal.

The appellants are seeking to appeal against a decision by the Court of Appeal in declaring the use of Mandarin and Tamil as the medium of instruction in vernacular schools as constitutional.

Other members of the bench were Datuk Rhodzariah Bujang and Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil.

On Nov 23 last year, the Court of Appeal chaired by Datuk Supang Lian said schools were neither statutory nor public authorities and the use of such languages (Chinese and Tamil) had existed even before the promulgation and adoption of the Federal Constitution.

The appellate court said the effects of the education policy were matters relating to the policy of government and the manner in which those policies were implemented.

The court said the use of Tamil and Chinese in national type schools as a medium of instruction was protected by the proviso in Article 152(1)(b) of the FC which mandates the government preserve and sustain the use and study of languages of other communities in the country.

On Dec 29, 2021, the then High Court judge Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali dismissed the lawsuit brought by four parties – the Islamic Education Development Council (Mappim), the Confederation of Malaysian Writers Association (Gapena), Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) and Ikatan Guru-Guru Muslim Malaysia (I-Guru).

The appellants, who filed the suit in December 2019, were seeking a declaration that the existence of vernacular schools goes against the Federal Constitution.

However, Nazlan in his judgment ruled that the educational institutions were not a public authority, and that their existence was protected by the Federal Constitution.

The organisations are appealing against Nazlan's decision.

It is learned that Isma and I-Guru have opted to drop out.

They had named the Malaysian Chinese Language Council, Chinese educationist groups Dong Zong and Jiao Zong, Persatuan Thamizhar Malaysia, Persatuan Tamilar Thurunal (Perak), Persatuan Gabungan Kebajikan Guru-Guru Bersara Sekolah Tamil, the Malaysian Chinese Language Council, Persatuan Malaysia Tamil Neri Kalagam, Gabungan Persatuan Bekas Pelajar Sekolah Tamil Malaysia and SMJK Chong Hwa as the defendants.

Apart from the government, four political parties — MIC, MCA, Gerakan and Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia — have also joined as defendants.

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