Wednesday 31 May 2023
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KUALA LUMPUR (June 2): Three groups that have intervened in an originating summons challenging the constitutionality of vernacular schools are objecting to its withdrawal by lawyer Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz on the grounds that it involves constitutional matters.

Khairul Azam's lawyer Abdul Rahim Sinwan told reporters that his client wants to withdraw his suit as there are three other Malay groups pursuing the matter.

“We filed the application in naming the Education Ministry and the Malaysian government as respondents. The ministry and government are not objecting to the withdrawal. However, there are three groups that have filed similar challenges. My instructions are to withdraw this application,” he said.

Meanwhile, Khairul Azam, who was also present, said since there were already three groups pursuing the matter, he did not want “too many eggs in one basket”.

The three groups who have filed similar suits to challenge the constitutionality of vernacular schools are the Association of Peninsular Malaysia Students, the Islamic Educational Development Council, and the Ikatan Guru-Guru Muslim Malaysia.

It was reported last December that Khairul Azam had refiled his application after the Federal Court earlier dismissed the challenge and suggested that it commence at the High Court first.

Khairul Azam was seeking a declaration that Sections 17 and 28 of the Education Act 1996 (Act 550), which allow the use of Chinese and Tamil languages as the main medium in vernacular schools, are against Article 152 of the Federal Constitution.

He contended that Chinese and Tamil national-type schools established by the minister of education are contrary to Article 152(1) of the Federal Constitution, which states that the national language shall be the Malay language and that the medium of instruction in government institutions should be Malay.

He argued that Sections 17 and 28 of the Education Act are invalid on the grounds that Parliament has no power to pass these two sections.

Objection to the withdrawal

Counsel T Gunaseelan, who appeared for the Chinese Language Council, the Tamil Language Association and the Confederation of Former Tamil School Pupils who are intervening in the suit, told High Court Justice Datuk Nordin Hassan that he has instructions to object to Khairul Azam's withdrawal.

“The court has the discretion and can exercise its discretion to hear and proceed with the hearing of the originating summons even if we are amicus curiae.”

“We have also submitted an affidavit to oppose the withdrawal and want a hearing date to be fixed,” he said.

Following that, Justice Nordin fixed July 2 to hear the objection after Abdul Rahim indicated to the court that they would not file an affidavit in reply.

The ministry and the government were represented by senior federal counsel Mohd Salehuddin Md Ali.

There were other political parties and education groups who appeared as interveners in the matter.

They included MCA, which was represented by Datuk Ben Chua; Jiao Zong and Dong Zong, which were represented by KF Wong; and Persatuan Gabungan Kebangsaan Guru Bersara Sekolah Tamil Malaysia, which were represented by Rajo Kuppan.

In an affidavit filed by the president of the Tamil Language Association R Permalu sighted by, he said this matter was no ordinary civil case as it touched on constitutional matters.

"The action by the plaintiff (Khairul Azam) was with bad faith and on Jan 14 [2020], at 10.48pm uploaded a video titled 'Cina and India takde dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan' on his Facebook.

"After uttering those words, he spit on the camera. This shows the plaintiff is a racist," Permalu claimed.

He claimed that after Khairul Azam filed the case and secured cheap publicity through the media, the plaintiff now wants to withdraw his suit.

Permalu has been given permission to represent the stand of the two other groups.

Besides being a lawyer, Khairul Azam is also a vice-president of the Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (Putra), but he claimed that he did not file the action on behalf of the party but on his individual capacity.


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