Ibrahim Ali: Courts Must Decide if Vernacular Schools Should Exist

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Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (Putra) president Ibrahim Ali said the courts must resolve the controversy surrounding the vernacular schools which obstruct national unity.

“I think it is high time for the courts to resolve the matter and decide if vernacular schools should continue to exist,” Ibrahim said.

The existence of the vernacular schools, which use mother tongue languages as the medium of instructions, is not in line with the national interest as they prevent the integration and unity of children of all races, he said.

“What we want is an education system in line with the national interest by adopting the national language as the medium of instruction.

Aiman Amerul Munar/Malaysiakini

“Putra believes building integration and unity among the different races must start in schools,” he said.

Ibrahim appeared at the Federal Court in Putrajaya today to support his vice-president Mohd Khairul Azam, who challenged the constitutionality of vernacular schools.

The court had denied Khairul’s leave application to hear the matter on two grounds – the constitutional issue can only be heard in the High Court, and that the Parliament has the jurisdiction to formulate provision to set up vernacular schools and decide the medium of instructions.

On Oct 23, Khairul had 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 the Parliament to pass an amendment to Sections 17 and 28 of the Education Act 1996, providing for the continued existence of vernacular schools.

He named the government and education minister as respondents.

Also appearing in court were two former deputy education ministers, MCA secretary-general Chong Sin Won and MIC central working committee member P Kamalanathan, who denied that vernacular schools are stumbling blocks to the unity of all races.

“The Tamil and Chinese schools have existed for over 200 years and many politicians and businesspersons come from these schools. I don’t think the vernacular schools threaten the unity,” said Kamalanathan.

Kamalanathan and Chong said their respective parties will apply to intervene in the trial if Khairul proceeds to file a similar challenge in the High Court.

“We welcome the decision of the Federal Court, which ruled that the Parliament has the jurisdiction to formulate law on education,” said Chong.

“I hope all parties will put an end (to the matter) and (acknowledge) that the vernacular schools do not cause any split in the country.

“I hope the (Pakatan Harapan) government will continue to support the multi-stream education system in the country,” added Chong.

Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching congratulated the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), saying that this shows it can successfully defend vernacular schools at the Federal Court.

“I hope the applicant will also stop their action in challenging vernacular schools because as said by many of our leaders, vernacular schools should be an important asset for the diversity in our country,” she said to reporters in Parliament today.

BN’s Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin said the court decision today should be accepted by all parties.

Yusof Mat Isa

“I feel the court is the best platform to decide the constitutional issue. If the court decides the existence of the vernacular schools does not violate the law, then we have to accept it,” he told the media at the Parliament lobby.

Khairy said this is because only the court should interpret the Federal Constitution. – Malaysiakini