NGOs will file appeal against vernacular school decision

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Mandarin and Tamil language vernacular schools will continue to operate with constitutional validity in Malaysia.

An appeal will be filed against the Court of Appeal’s decision that vernacular schools are constitutional, says lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla.

According to Mohamed Haniff, details on the appeal will be finalised soon and it has to be filed within 30 days from Thursday (Nov 23).

“It is confirmed that the appeal will be filed. But we will decide how many parties will be in the appeal,” Haniff said when met by reporters at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya on Thursday (Nov 23).

“We will decide whether the appeal will be filed jointly or separately because this involves a high cost.

Azhar Mahfof/The Star

“Every document and appeal will involve separate applications…So, we will discuss with our clients the Islamic Education Development Council (Mappim) and the Confederation of Malaysian Writers Association (Gapena),” added Mohamed Haniff.

Mohamed Haniff said the interpretation of Article 152(1) of the Federal Constitution did not allow public schools to use any other languages aside from Bahasa Malaysia.

“That is our stand on what is expressed in writing in Article 152. So, we will try to go to the Federal Court (for appeal),” he added.

Mohamed Haniff said a leave application to appeal the decision will be filed first, before the appeal.

“Only when leave is granted, then after that, the appeal will be filed within 30 days from Thursday,” he said.

On Thursday (Nov 23), the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya ruled that vernacular schools are constitutional, dismissing the appeal of four NGOs seeking to declare that the use of Chinese and Tamil languages as the medium of instruction in vernacular schools was against the Constitution.

The decision was meted down by a three-member panel comprising Justices Supang Lian, M Gunalan and Azizul Azmi Adnan.

In the court’s decision, Justice Azizul said vernacular schools were not a public authority and as such, the use of Tamil and Chinese languages as the medium of instruction for teaching in those schools was constitutional.

Mappim, Gapena, Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) and Ikatan Guru-Guru Muslim Malaysia (I-Guru) were appealing against the decision of the Kuala Lumpur and Kota Baru High Courts that dismissed their suits in December 2021 and May 2022 respectively.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry welcomes the Court of Appeal’s decision that vernacular schools are constitutional, the Dewan Rakyat was told.

Deputy Education Minister Lim Hui Ying said Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools will continue operating and use the languages as their medium for instruction in teaching.

“The Education Ministry welcomes the decision this morning that unanimously dismissed the appeal filed by four non-governmental organisations (NGO) that the use of Chinese and Tamil languages in vernacular schools was unconstitutional,” she said before her scheduled response during the question-and-answer session in Parliament on Thursday (Nov 23).