SPA: Right to use, study mother tongue protected by Federal Constitution

Datuk Lau Pang Heng

KUCHING, Aug 7: Sarawak Patriots Association (SPA) is concerned about reports of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong’s recent statement that the Chinese community must be thankful to the federal government for allowing their children to learn Chinese in schools.

According to SPA chairman Datuk Lau Pang Heng, he is unsure if Liew has diverted from the Federal Constitution and Education Act.

“SPA would like to quote the Federal Constitution Article 152(1) that says, “The national language shall be the Malay language. Provided that (a) no person shall be prohibited from using (otherwise than for official purposes) or from teaching or learning any other language; and (b) nothing in this Clause shall prejudice the right of the Federal Government or of any State Government to preserve and sustain the use and study of the language of any other community in the Federation”.

“Therefore SPA opines that this Article has been regarded as the constitutional safeguard or guarantee for the fundamental right to use and study mother tongue by the various communities in this country. As far as I know, there has been no serious challenge to the existence of mother tongue (sic) schools in Malaysia although the Chinese educationists did challenge the government’s rejection of Merdeka University in the early eighties,” Lau added.

He further elaborate that the Queen’s Counsel, Michael Beloff for Merdeka University at that time, argued that there was no law to back the policy which stipulates that Bahasa Malaysia shall be the sole medium of instruction in the Malaysian education system.

To do this, the government has to amend the Constitution to implement the National Education Policy.

Otherwise, the implementation of this policy violates Article 152 of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Federal Constitution Article 8(2), (relating to equality before the law) says, “Except as expressly authorised by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment.”

“Therefore, based on the Federal Constitution, every Malaysian has the right to choose the languages they like their children to learn. This is provided for in the Federal Constitution. Learning of mother tongue languages has also been provided in the Education Act 1996.

“Thus, to say that Chinese need to be thankful to the federal government for allowing their children to learn Chinese in school is most uncalled for,” Lau said. — DayakDaily