KUALA LUMPUR: A lawyer representing two Malay students groups today argued that the existence of vernacular schools was actually detrimental to non-Bumiputeras.
Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla said such schools actually reduced non-Bumiputera students' chances of employment due to their lack of knowledge in Bahasa Malaysia.
He said most employers in the private and also public sectors preferred candidates who are fluent in Bahasa Malaysia in terms of speech and writing.
"It also will cause them to be left behind due to difficulties in communicating with each other in Bahasa Malaysia.
"How can they survive in other countries if they cannot even survive in their own country?"
Haniff said the national education system which allowed the establishment of Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools was contrary to Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution (FC).
Article 5(1) stipulates that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law.
Haniff said this in his submissions in a lawsuit by three entities to challenge the legality of vernacular schools over their use of non-national medium of instruction.
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.
They are seeking a court declaration that the existence of vernacular schools goes against the provisions in the federal constitution as Article 152(1) of the FC defines Malay as the national language.
Haniff, who represented GPMS and Mappim, vernacular schools had divided the major races in the country by practicing racial segregation.
He claimed there had also been incidents involving human rights violations which occurred in vernacular schools where a teacher was forced to remove her headscarf.
"This is not a new issue and action should be taken by shutting down these schools," he said.
Meanwhile, senior counsel Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram who represented the Malaysian Chinese Language Council (MCLC) said the plaintiffs do not have any locus standi to commence the court action.
"The plaintiffs failed to show how they suffered from the alleged constitutional violations," he said.
The other organisations who have also been named as defendants are Chinese educationist groups Dong Zong and Jiao Zong, Persatuan Thamizhar Malaysia, Persatuan Tamilar Thurunal (Perak), Persatuan Gabungan Kebajikan Guru-Guru Bersara Sekolah Tamil, the Malaysian Chinese Language Council, Persatuan Malaysia Tamil Neri Kalagam, Gabungan Persatuan Bekas Pelajar Sekolah Tamil Malaysia and SMJK Chong Hwa.
Apart from the government, four political parties – MIC, MCA, Gerakan and Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia – have also joined in as defendants.
Senior federal counsel Narkunavathy Sundareson who acted for the government said vernacular schools are part of the education system.
"The vernacular schools' system does not contravene the Federal Constitution," she said.
The proceedings before judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali continues tomorrow.