152 (1) The national language shall be the Malay language and shall be in such script as Parliament may by law provide:
(a) no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (otherwise than for official purpose), or from teaching or learning any other languages;
(b) nothing in the 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 community in the Federation.
REPHRASED AS FOLLOWS:
The national language
- shall be the Malay language AND
- shall be in such script as Parliament may by law provide
(a) no person shall be prohibited or prevented
- from using (otherwise than for official purpose) or
- ‘from teaching or learning any other language; and
(b) nothing in the clause shall prejudice the right
- of the Federal Government
- of any State Government
- preserve and,
- use and,
of the language of any other community in the Federation.
My interpretation of the above expression are as follows:
1. ‘National language’ means the common language of all the communities in the Federation that moulds together to form a nation. And there is no national language if and where every community speaks and writes in the language of that community without any common language being used (speak and write) by all and each and everyone of the communities.
2. The Malay language since the advent of Islam to the Malay Archipelago in the early 1400s is in Jawi or Arabic script. The Constitution empowers Parliament to prescribe the script of the Malay language. The National Language Act 1963/67 prescribe Rumi or Roman script.
Please note that the Malays sacrificed their religious obligation to read, write and recite the Qur’an in the Jawi script for the general good of all Malaysians, namely that all Malaysians be able to use, teach and learn the Malay language in Rumi. The use of Jawi script may be used.
3. For all official purpose, only the Malay language must be used and none other. ‘Official purpose’ means any purpose of the Government, whether Federal or State and includes any purpose of a public authority.
4. For all official purpose, the National Language Act 1963/67 may prohibit or restrict the use of any language other than the Malay language and may further provide that it is anoffence to use (speak and write) any other language for official purpose and to provide the punishment or penalty thereof.
5. No one neither any organization nor the Government has power to prohibit completely or prevent wholly or partly any person from teaching or learning any other language. It means anybody who desires to teach and learn and speak, for example, the Chinese language or Tamil or Telegu or any other, do so privately.
The Government cannot clamp it BUT the Government MUST NOT, nonetheless, encourage it by establishing or assisting in establishing and by providing funds and facilities. To do so is tantamount to prejudicingnor disfavouring the use of the Malay language to compete with each other. Article 152 of the Federal Constitution disallows such a policy.
6. The Government may allow the use of the community language in designated areas, for example tourism enclave, warning signs at restricted areas or dangerous/hazardous spots or at entry and exits points etc. The Government may set up Language Laboratories or Department of Language Studies (Chinese or Indian language) in colleges or universities envisaged by Clause (1) (b).
7. This Article is an enabling provision because it enables any person to teachand learn and use any language. A foreigner can likewise do so. It is NOT a right vested to anybody. It merely allows anyone to teach and learn the language NOT to teach and learn in the language.
Bluntly put, one cannot teach and learn Chinese history and literature or Indian Monkey God Masquerading the Polynesian Islands in 8th century in Chinese language or in any of the Indian languages in our schools. I must express that this point of view is contentious because Justice Youseffe Abdul Kadir said somewhat similar, obiter dicta, in Merdeka University case.
8. Finally , the expression ‘using otherwise than the official purposes or from teaching or learning’ in Clause (1)(a) must mean differently from the expression ‘the use and study’ in Clause (1)(b).
9. Let us look beyond Article 152 and to consider whether our Education Policy is consistent with or in contradiction with Article 8 in respect of equality and Article 12 in respect of discrimination.
Firstly Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) and Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Tamil) teach among other subjects Mandarin dan Tamil. Whereas the Government does not establish or assist in establishing Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Telegu), (Malayalam), (Punjabi), (Urdu), (Siam) etc.
The Chinese and Tamil communities are the priviledges communities among other like communities. The Orang Asli should be more priviledged than all the communities. Chinese or Tamil school teachers, headmasters and staff are appointed and paid salaries with Government Funds, but not with other communities.
The Government acquired lands or allocate public money to these two communities but not to other communities. Moreover the discrimination is not just and equitable and is not excepted or exempted under the Constitution.
10. Article 12 prohibits discrimination against citizens on the ground of race in the administration of public educational institutions or public institutions partly funded from Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) and (Tamil), unlike the privately funded Chinese or Tamil schools (if any), are discriminitory and abhorrent to the Constitution which declares imperatively that shall be no discrimination against citizens and on ground of race. Government funds cannot be selectively or discriminately allocated to one and denied to the other communities.
11. Article 12(2) makes it lawful for the Government to establish and maintenance or otherwise assist Islamic institutions and to provide funds and expenditure as much as it may be necessary. BUT similar enabling provisions is no where found and according to the rules of interpretation the Constitution intentionally omits it and deny similar or the same priviledges to all other religious communities.
12. At this time after the 13th General Election, I refrain from commenting on the rights of Bumiputera Sabah and Sarawak in respect of education. Suffice it for me to say the least the Article 152 should be but is not amended to empower the State Government of Sabah and Sarawak to provide similar provisions under Article 12(2) in respect of Bumiputera languages.
13. Finally, for the love of our blessed country, the prevailing continued enjoyment of peace and harmony among our communities and the future wellbeing, prosperity and brotherhood of our next generation and the next following and so forth. LET US ALL together urge the Government of the day to transform the Government Education Policy to one which admit all our pupils to study together in the same primary schools and our students in the same secondary schools and thereafter to the universities where our X-Y and Z-gen study together under the same roof, eat and drink in the same canteen and play, exercise and rejuvenate in the same field, court and gym.
May it be known publicly that this writer was a qualified Tamil Court Interpreter and reads and writes Tamil and lived with the community at Sentul Railway Quarters form one year in 1960. The writer attended Further Education Class in Mandarin briefly when he served as a Majistrate in Penang in 1970. The writer also learnt Arabic from ‘Learn Arabic, Linguaphone Records’.
Researched and Presented by: Justice Dato’ Mohd Noor Abdullah, retired Court of Appeal Judge, Malaysia