Monday, November 14, 2011

Lawyer takes Muhyiddin to court over English use

The government's decision to abolish the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English is invalid, given Sabah's special status within the federation.

KOTA KINABALU: The decision to scrap the use of English to teach Mathematics and Science in schools in Sabah will be tested in the High Court here days after the new school year starts in January.

Justice Abdul Rahman Sebli will hear an application for a judicial review of the government’s decision to abolish the teaching of the two subjects in English by a local lawyer on Jan 11.

The lawyer, Marcel Jude Joseph, filed an ex-parte judicial review application at the High Court on Nov 11 naming Muhyiddin Yassin, the Education Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, as the sole respondent.

Joseph in his application said that the government’s decision to abolish the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English is invalid and illegal, given Sabah’s special status within the federation.

Known for taking high-profile, public interest cases, Joseph, who is also the deputy president of the alumni association of of La Salle and Sacred Heart, is also seeking an order to restrain the government from abolishing the language as a medium of instruction and a further declaration that the decision is ultra vires and unlawful.

In his statement of claim, Joseph pointed out that the government had first encouraged the use of English as a medium of instruction for the two subjects in an effort to improve the command of English among pupils at primary and secondary schools in Malaysia.

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced the policy on July 19, 2002, and it was implemented the following year.

The decision to change the medium of instruction from the Malay language to English for the two subjects was due to the government’s concern that poor comprehension of an international language would hinder development in an increasingly globalised economy.

Joseph contended that the minister’s action to abolish the use of English to teach the two subjects is unlawful with regard to the Sabah as unlike the other states in the Federation of Malaysia, Sabah occupies a unique or special position.

No act of Parliament

Joseph also said that Article 152 of the Federal Constitution states that the Malay language is the national language but everybody is free to learn and use other languages except for official purposes such as those regarding government.

All court proceedings, parliamentary documents and meetings must also be conducted in the Malay language.

However, he pointed out that under Article 161 of the Federal Constitution, in the case of Sabah and Sarawak, English is the official language of the courts and the government and the legislative body and for all other official purposes.

He added that no act of Parliament terminating or restricting the use of the English language in judicial and court proceedings in Sabah and Sarawak shall come into operation until the act or the relevant provision of it has been approved by enactments of the legislatures of both the states.

The law that will terminate or restrict the use of English in Sabah and Sarawak, he said, is the National Language Act 1963/67 which states that the national language, that is, the Malay language, shall be used for official purposes.

He also contended that Section 17 of the Education Act, 1996, does not state that Bahasa Malaysia shall be the main medium of instruction while Point 2 of the 20 point-Agreement states that English should be an official language of North Borneo for all purposes, state or federal, without limitation of time.

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