End vernacular schools? PAS leader backs delegate’s call, but says not official party position

Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
PAS Central Committee member Dr Halimah Ali Abdullah speaks during the last day of Muktamar 2019 in Kuantan June 23,2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 — PAS Central Committee member Dr Halimah Ali Abdullah has defended a fellow member’s call for the abolition of Mandarin-medium schools in Malaysia and the insertion of Arabic as the language of instruction in these schools.

But she also pointed out that Salamiah Md Nor’s views was just a “suggestion”, and did not reflect the Islamist party’s official position on the matter.

“The point is, Salamiah was a representative of delegates in the assembly,” Dr Halimah said.

“She was just voicing the concerns of various segments in the community at large in retaliation to [Pakatan Harapan] government’s interference in to Islamic affairs especially deputy education minster. That’s all.”

She was referring to deputy minister Teo Nie Ching, but falsely accused her of interfering in Islamic affairs after the latter shared her ministry’s call for feedback on amending religious education curriculum.

“Salamiah’s suggestion was just a ‘normal’ voice from the grassroots that was brought up in the assembly. It’s not PAS decision. Period,” she added.

Salamiah, who is vice-chief of the Islamist party’s women’s wing, made the remark as a party delegate during PAS’s annual congress last week, and had said she did not want to see Mandarin taking position as the country’s second language.

Dr Halimah took issue with this, and accused some critics within DAP of failing to understand PAS’ “democratic practice” during its congress, whereby it allowed delegates to freely speak their minds.

She also said that it was up to the Pakatan Harapan government to decide on the issue of vernacular schools.

In Malaysia, Mandarin and Tamil are used as the medium of instruction in national type schools only at the primary level. The two are not national languages.

From secondary school onwards, public school students are taught in Bahasa Malaysia, the national language, regardless of the type.

Those who opt to continue their secondary and tertiary studies in Mandarin enrol in private schools.

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