KUALA LUMPUR: The plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the legality of vernacular schools do not have any locus standi to commence the action, the High Court here was told on Tuesday (Nov 23).

The suit was initiated by the Federation of Peninsular Malay Students (GPMS), the Islamic Education Development Council (Mappim) and the Confederation of Malaysian Writers Association (Gapena) in December 2019.

Lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, representing one of the defendants – the Malaysian Chinese Language Council (MCLC) – said the plaintiffs had failed to show how they have suffered from the alleged constitutional violations.

Senior Federal Counsel S. Narkunavathy, who appeared for the government, said vernacular schools were part of the education system and their establishment did not contravene the Federal Constitution.

The other organisations named as defendants in the lawsuit are Chinese educationist groups Dong Zong and Jiao Zong, Persatuan Thamizhar Malaysia, Persatuan Tamilar Thirunal (Perak), Persatuan Gabungan Kebajikan Guru-Guru Bersara Sekolah Tamil, Persatuan Malaysia Tamil Neri Kalagam, Gabungan Persatuan Bekas Pelajar Sekolah Tamil Malaysia and SMJK Chong Hwa.

The plaintiffs are seeking court declarations, including a declaration that Sections 2, 17 and 28 of the Education Act – which provide for the formation of national-type Chinese and Tamil (SJKC and SJKT) schools with the Chinese and Tamil languages as their respective medium of instruction – breach Article 152(1) of the Federal Constitution.

Earlier, lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla argued that a lack of fluency in Bahasa Malaysia would affect the employability of vernacular school students compared with students who are educated in national schools.

This, he said, was because most employers, whether in the private or public sectors, prefer candidates who are fluent in Bahasa Malaysia.

“We don’t want this to happen to Malaysians because if it is hard for them to get a job here, how would it be for them in other countries?

“The inability to speak fluent Bahasa Malaysia would result in their being left out in life as there would be hardship in communication. This would halt important affairs especially those involving government agencies,” he said in his submissions.

The lawyer said the establishment of the Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools contradicted Article 5 of the Federal Constitution.

In Article 5, it is stated that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with the law.

Mohamed Haniff, who represented GPMS and Mappim in the hearing, also argued that the vernacular schools were a discrimination against the children of Sabah and Sarawak (such as Bukitan, Bisayah, Dusun, Dayak and others) who were defined in the Federal Constitution but were not given a chance to have their own education system.

“This is a clear discrimination against the children of Sabah and Sarawak who have their own mother tongue,” he added.

The hearing continues before Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali on Wednesday (Nov 24).

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