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Prime Minister must uphold our Constitution when it comes to public education


The Young Professionals (YP) are extremely concerned by reports that Prime Minister has pledged to help build more Chinese vernacular schools for the Chinese community, as well as help relocate existing ones, at the 63rd MCA Annual General Meeting (AGM) (PM pledges more Chinese schools, says don’t forget come polls, MalaysiaKini, November 13, 2016).

Such a move by our PM smacks of borrowing from the populist approach of Donald Trump in the recently concluded US Presidential Elections in trying to obtain votes from the Chinese community, and is, to borrow a term widely used against supporters of the now President-elect, deplorable. The PM’s promise is deplorable by any standard because the very presence of vernacular schools in our education system is unconstitutional. YP urges its immediate rescission.

There is no issue with the Prime Minister or any other Malaysian politician promising electoral goodies in return for votes. Indeed, such is the norm in any democracy such as ours. But as citizens of this nation we are all, regardless of racial or ethnic origin, bound by the Federal Constitution as our apex law. Article 152 of the document provides that Malay is our national language, regardless of the native languages of other ethnic communities in Malaysia.

Although the same article provides that no community shall be prohibited from teaching or learning any other language, the well-known precedent of Merdeka University v Government of Malaysia has held that this does not extend to teaching or learning in such other languages. In any case, the implication is clear. Malay as our national language is to be the sole language for use in any state institution, including but not limited to those relating to education.

Given the nature of the pledge by our Prime Minister, it is perhaps worth nothing the following passage contained at the end of the judgment of our former Lord President, Suffian LP (as he then was) of the said precedent:-

“Before departing from this case, we would like to remark that it is unfortunate that there is a widespread tendency on the part not only of the Chinese to demand the establishment of this or that institution of learning as part of a campaign to win favour with the electorate. This is especially marked when a general election is looming. 

An unfortunate effect of this tendency is the need to appeal to racial and linguistic sentiments and the arousing of strong emotions on the part of those whose language is being championed and equally strong reactions on the part of those whose language is thought to be threatened. It is realized that this is a legacy from pre-Merdeka days when the different races were educated in separate compartments.

Now that we have been in charge of our own destiny for 25 years (as it was then), our people should be mature enough to realise the importance as regard sensitive issues of keeping the political temperature down rather than up, they should agree to regard universities and schools as an educational rather than a political problem, and that they are a vital instrument in nation-building,”

YP notes that the above passage was written in 1982 when we were an independent nation for merely 25 years. Now after nearly 60 years of independence, the recommendation of the Razak Report made all the way back in 1956 that we should, as an eventuality, only use the Malay language, being our national language, as the sole language of instruction in all schools and educational establishment owned and operated by the state continues to be ignored at the whim and fancy of our politicians.

Worse, the Prime Minister’s pledge at the MCA AGM indicates that we are going backwards on this matter, all in the name of continued appeasement and populism of a certain segment of the population that refuses to acknowledge the importance of national unity and integration. This senselessness, where unconstitutional moves are promised in return for political support, must cease if we are to survive as a nation.

YP implores that the Prime Minister retract his above said statement immediately and pledge to uphold our Federal Constitution, particularly its provisions on our national language. YP also urges the Government to move immediately towards implementing the recommendations of the Razak Report by imposing an immediate moratorium on the opening of any further vernacular schools in this country, and come up for a roadmap for a solution acceptable by our Constitution, perhaps in the form of withdrawal of state support for such schools and educational establishments as well as their subsequent privatisation.