Nancy: Use of English for lessons in Sarawak, Sabah schools legal and valid

Danial Dzulkifly
Nancy explained that the National Language Act 1963/1967 (Act 32) which states that Bahasa Malaysia is the official language, has not come into force in east Malaysia. — AFP pic

PETALING JAYA, Sept 4 ― English can be used as a medium of instruction in national schools in Sarawak and Sabah in accordance with the Malaysia Agreement 1963, said Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, the former minister in-charge of law.

Commenting on a news report that said it was unlawful to use English to teach in national schools, the Batang Sadong MP explained that the National Language Act 1963/1967 (Act 32) which states that Bahasa Malaysia is the official language, has not come into force in east Malaysia.

“However, in order for the aforesaid Act 32 to have the legal effect in Sabah and Sarawak, an enactment/ordinance has to be passed in the State Legislature,” she told Malay Mail via Whatsapp.

“As of today, the Sarawak Government has not passed an Ordinance or Enactment in the Sarawak State Legislature to restrict and terminate the usage of English Language as their official language as stated in the Cobbold Commission Report; IGC ( Inter-Governmental Committee) Report and Article 161(3) of the Federal Constitution,’’ she added.

Article 161 of the Federal Constitution deals with the use of English and native languages in Sabah and Sarawak.

Article 161 (3) however says that no such act of Parliament shall come into operation as regards the use of the English language until the act or the relevant provision of it has been approved by enactments of the Legislatures of the States of Sabah and Sarawak.

Nancy added that the position of English in Sabah and Sarawak was also defined in the Cobbold Commissions in 1962 which leads to MA63.

“With regard to official languages, it was agreed and proposed in the Cobbold Commission Report that Malay is the national language and both Malay and English are the official languages without any time limit for the Borneo States.

“The position of English Language was refined further and agreed in MA63. Malay is the national language but the English Language is the official language for a period of 10 years after Malaysia Day and thereafter until the State Legislature otherwise provides,” she explained further.

With that, no one should question the rights of Sarawak and her people to use the English Language as their official language besides the Bahasa Kebangsaan, Nancy said.

“Now that the Federal government expressed their willingness in looking into the MA63 for Sarawak, the federal government should realise that it was the spirit of MA63 which allows the Borneo states to apply English as their medium of instruction after taking into consideration the relevant legislation stated above,’’ she said.

Malaysiakini had today reported that the Education Ministry was against the use of English as the medium of instruction in national schools as it violated the Federal Constitution and the National Language Act.

The ministry said, in a written parliamentary reply to Nancy, it also contravened the letter and spirit of the Education Act 1996.

“Therefore, to preserve and honour the supremacy of the constitution and the law, the ministry does not suggest that English be used as the medium of instruction in schools, including schools in Sarawak.

“Raising the standards of English among students can be done from time to time through other methods that are in line with the law and present education policies,” the ministry said in its reply.

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