In latest case, High Court again finds vernacular schools constitutional

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The High Court in Kota Baru yesterday dismissed a lawsuit by a Muslim teachers group I-Guru that sought to declare vernacular schools in Malaysia unconstitutional.

According to Malaysiakini, judge Roslan Abu Bakar said that while vernacular schools could be considered public authorities, the constitutional requirement for these to use Bahasa Melayu must not be taken in isolation.

“The High Court judge today said vernacular schools are public authorities. Nevertheless, he said it is constitutional because, looking at the history behind Article 152, it guarantees the use of the mother tongue,” lawyer T Gunaseelan was quoted as saying.

Gunaseelan said he has been informed that the plaintiff intends to appeal.

In a similar case last December, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur also ruled in favour of the constitutionality of Malaysia’s vernacular schools.

The suit brought by the Federation of Peninsular Malay Students, the Islamic Education Development Council, and the Confederation of Malaysian Writers Association is now pending appeal at the Court of Appeal.

“The High Court in Kuala Lumpur threw out the other case, saying that the vernacular schools are not public authorities, and also went on to say that even if you were to interpret Article 152 using a historical perspective, the vernacular schools were there long before the Federal Constitution.

“And therefore, the Federal Constitution actually recognises vernacular schools and guarantees the use of mother tongue,” Gunaseelan said.

In the December decision, Justice Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali said the Federal Constitution expressly protected teaching in mother tongues other than Bahasa Malaysia.

Nazlan further said that vernacular schools are educational institutions under the Education Act 1996 and are not public or statutory authorities.

As such, he said it is not considered an offence if another language than Malay is used as a medium of instruction, adding that this is safeguarded under Article 152 (1) (a) of the Federal Constitution. – MMO