Vernacular school saga: “Apex court’s judgement a victory for diversity in Malaysia,” says MCA

THE Federal Court’s ruling on the constitutional right to mother tongue education is a victory for vernacular schools and the nation’s multi-stream education system, and by extension, a triumph for Malaysia as a multicultural country, said an MCA leader.

MCA secretary-general Datuk Chong Sin Woon’s comment came after the Federal Court in a majority decision on Tuesday (Feb 20) had denied leave appeal two non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who sought leave to appeal against an earlier ruling that the use of Chinese and Tamil languages in these schools to be constitutional.

“The recent Federal Court ruling means that this case which began in 2019 to challenge the status of Chinese and Tamil primary schools has reached a successful conclusion for vernacular schools,” Chong said in a statement today (Feb 21).

“The Federal Court’s decision also means that the earlier judgements by the High Court and Court of Appeal have been upheld, and therefore, the use of mother tongue as the medium of instruction in Chinese and Tamil primary schools adheres to the Federal Constitution.”

Calling the ruling a victory for everyone, Chong said via judicial procedures, citizens from all ethnic groups will have a clearer comprehension of Malaysia’s multicultural society and multi-stream education as envisioned by the country’s founding fathers.

“They also provided a protective framework through legislation, to enable the development of Malaysia across the generations. Citizens have the independent choice to learn, teach and use their mother tongue,” he added.

“MCA hopes that all Malaysian compatriots, regardless of skin colour, religion, or background, will jointly safeguard Malaysia’s unique features of diversity.

“As one of the founding parties of our nation, MCA holds a serious view of any attempt to challenge or destroy our nation’s features of diversity.

“We remain committed towards defending the rights and interests of all ethnic groups as conferred by the Federal Constitution, and as intended by our founding fathers and drafters of Malaysia’s highest law of the land.”

Justice Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan, who chaired the Federal Court’s three-judge panel, delivered the majority decision which was agreed to by Federal Court judge Datuk Rhodzariah Bujang.

Federal Court judge Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil dissented.

Two non-governmental organisations who had challenged the constitutionality of vernacular schools – the Islamic Education Development Council (Mappim) and the Confederation of Malaysian Writers Association (Gapena) – had wanted to pursue their appeal.

As Mappim and Gapena failed to obtain leave for appeal, this means the Federal Court will not be hearing their appeal, and the Court of Appeal’s decision – which found vernacular schools to be constitutional – still stands.

Mappim and Gapena had previously failed at both the High Court and Court of Appeal to challenge the constitutionality and legality of vernacular schools. – Feb 21, 2024


Main pic credit: Bloomberg

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