Guan Eng: Cabinet Agrees to Defend Constitution, Vernacular Schools Constitutional

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The existence of vernacular schools is consistent with the Federal Constitution and the cabinet has agreed to defend the constitution, said Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.

“The cabinet has made the decision regarding the case (that challenges the constitutionality of vernacular schools). We decided that we must defend the Federal Constitution,” said Lim, adding that the existence of vernacular schools is enshrined in Article 152 of the Federal Constitution.

Speaking to the media after meeting with Chinese educationist group Dong Jiao Zong, Lim added that the Chinese community should keep calm and not to fall into the “trap” of some party who wants to incite the emotions by using the issue.

“They are playing the issue to incite the sentiments, they must be happy to see us become indignant, so we should not fall into their trap,” added Lim.

Abu Dzar Abdul Hafiz/Malaysiakini

Deputy Minister of Education Teo Nie Ching, DAP Legal Bureau chairperson Ramkarpal Singh, Jiao Zong president Ong Chiow Chuen, Dong Zong deputy chairperson Tan Yew Sin and Chong Hwa Independent High School board president Lim Keng Cheng were also present at the press conference.

Meanwhile, Lim urged the Chinese community to engage other ethnic groups and gain their support and understanding of the existence of vernacular schools, instead of creating hostility or friction.

“We will actively deal with the case through legal channels. At the same time, we should also communicate with other parties and make them understand that the Federal Constitution assures all Malaysians of their right to study their mother tongue language.”

Lim added that some “Malay ethnic ministers” have expressed their support for vernacular schools, including Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu.

Later, he told Malaysiakini that Minister of Home Affairs Muhyiddin Yassin and Minister of International Trade and Industry Darell Leiking also individually expressed their support.

On Oct 23, lawyer Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz filed a motion to challenge the existence of vernacular schools, which was codified under the Education Act 1996, as a contravention of the Federal Constitution.

He sought a declaration from the Federal Court that it was unconstitutional for Parliament to pass an amendment to Sections 17 and 28 of the Education Act 1996 to provide for the continued existence of vernacular schools. He named the government and education minister as respondents.

At the press conference, Teo was asked about the Education Ministry’s stand, but Lim Guan Eng answered on her behalf, saying “The stand of the government is the stand of the Ministry of Education”.

The Federal Court in Putrajaya today denied the application of leave to challenge the constitutionality of the existence of vernacular schools on 11 Nov.

Chief Judge of Malaya Azahar Mohamed ruled that the Parliament has the jurisdiction to formulate laws on education.

He said the education minister has the jurisdiction to set up national type schools as enacted under Section 28 of the Education Act.

Justice Azahar ruled that the minister also has the jurisdiction to decide not to use the national language as the medium of instruction in the national-type schools, according to Section 17 of the Education Act. – Malaysiakini