‘Article 32 of the National Language Act has no legal effect in Sarawak’

Datuk Lau Pang Heng

KUCHING, Sept 5: Sarawak Patriot Association (SPA) opines that for Article 32 of the National Language Act to have legal effect in Sarawak, the Sarawak Legislative Assembly will have to first give its consent.

Its chairman, Datuk Lau Pang Heng, said this condition is provided for in Section 1(2) of Act 32.

He emphasised that SPA fully supported Bahasa Malaysia as the national language, which is stipulated under Article 152 of the Federal Constitution.

“However, as Sarawak, Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia are equal partners under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), we are concerned about the recent debate on the use of English language as the medium instruction in national schools,” said Lau in a statement today.

He said the Federal Constitution and National Language Act 1963/1967 (‘Act 32’) states that Bahasa Malaysia is the official language.

“Act 32, however, has not come into force in Sarawak. In order for Act 32 to have the legal effect in Sarawak, an enactment ordinance has to be passed in the State Legislative.

“This is provided for in Section 1(2) of Act 32. Up until today, the Sarawak government has not passed this enactment,” Lau pointed out.

He said Article 161(3) of the Federal Constitution states that no such act of Parliament shall come into operation pertaining to the use of English until the act or the relevant provision of it has been approved by enactment of the Sarawak State Assembly.

“It must be noted from the Cobbold Commission Report 1962 which stated that although the national language is Malay, there was no restriction on the usage of English as both Malay and English were recognised as the official languages without any time limit for Sarawak and Sabah.

“In view of the above, we are concerned with the recent announcement by the Minister of Education that English cannot be used as a medium of instruction in Sarawak national schools.

“We uphold that education is a federal matter for now until the return of Sarawak’s autonomy. However, we ask the minister to examine if his decision has contravened MA63 and the Cobbold Commission,” said Lau.

He also reminded that Promise 44 of the Pakatan Harapan manifesto had pledged that the Sabah and Sarawak governments would be given decision-making rights in education and health matters.

Promise 44 also states that “in education, parents will be given the opportunity to decide whether the school will use native language or English”.

Meanwhile, SPA congratulated the government for the formation of the cabinet committee concerning the MA63 with a view that “what belongs to Sarawak, must be returned to Sarawak”.

“SPA hopes the cabinet committee is not just to review the terms and conditions but to review if Sarawak’s rights had been eroded over the years, and if so, they must be returned to Sarawak,” said Lau. — DayakDaily