Ministry of Health must Uphold Constitutional Provisions on National Language

Press Statement by Concerned Lawyers for Justice

4th of July 2017

The Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ) reads with grave concern the Press Statement by Ministry Of Health (MOH) dated 02 July 2017 entitled “Exemption to the Requirement of SPM-Level Bahasa Melayu for Appointment of Contract House Officer at the Ministry Of Health”. [1]

It is understood from the statement that medical graduates are now exempted from the requirement to produce Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia-level Bahasa Melayu certification in order for them to apply with the Public Service Department (PSD) for a position as contract House Officer to undergo housemanship training. [2] In other words, medical graduates can now be absorbed as a House Officer and thereafter contract Medical Officer with the MOH, even if they are incapable of stringing a proper sentence, or speaking a single word of the language of the common people of this nation.

While the Press Statement specifically mentioned the provisions relating to Bahasa Melayu as National Language under Article 152 of the Federal Constitution as well as National Language Acts 1963/67, however, the waiver alludes to a simple fact that the MOH is not mindful of our national identity by disrespecting the relevant provisions that have placed Bahasa Melayu as the National Language, which must be used in all official matters. [3]

This reminds CLJ of a report entitled Human Rights in Malaysia that was prepared by the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA) last year, which highlighted an important point pertaining to the position of the National Language on every sectors, and came to some alarming findings for the failure to adhere to the same:-

“In 1982, the Malaysian apex Court declared that “the framers of [the Malaysian] Constitution deliberately chose to use the expression “national language” because they intended that bahasa [i.e. the Malay language] should be used not only for official purposes but also as an instrument for bringing together the diverse and polyglot races that live here and thus promote national unity … [T]he use of bahasa could and should be used as an instrument for unifying the whole nation.” [4]

“Despite such clear constitutional provision and declaration from the Court, the lackadaisical attitude of the Malaysian Government to uphold and promote the appreciation and use of the national language has caused much damage to the nation-building process. What is more alarming is that such apathetic attitude is then reflected on the Malaysian citizens at large.”

“In February 2015, for instance, the now defunct online portal, The Malaysian Insider, reported a survey on the lackadaisical attitude that the Chinese Malaysian youths have towards the national language. [5] A year before that, Professor Dr Sharon Carstens of the PSU Institute for Asian Studies presented her findings at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) as to how the Chinese Malaysians have “negative feelings towards using” national language, despite acknowledging Article 152 of the Federal Constitution, [6] as agreed upon by the nation’s forefathers. On October 25th of the same year, another academic, Professor Dr. Teo Kok Seong revealed his findings that out of 14,000 trainees of the Malaysian National Service Training Programme in the year 2010, a staggering 604 trainees could not speak the national language at all. [7]

Thus, CLJ views the waiver by MOH on the requirement for SPM-level Bahasa Melayu requirement for medical graduates as an act of adding salt to an already injured national identity, by allowing for more breakage from the constitutional narratives that are supposed to be honored and upheld.

It is unbecoming that medical graduates, who are Malaysian citizens and wish to serve in its public service are not expected to adhere to the same requirement that is imposed throughout the pay grade in the PSD system. It may well be further argued that this will be an infringement to Article 8 of the Federal Constitution that demands equality before the law.

Although we understand that such waiver means to facilitate the medical graduates in completing their compulsory service, however, relaxing a requirement that is inserted on the thrust of a constitutional provision is an insult to our Malaysian histories and legal system. Further, it begs a serious question as to whether a medical House Officer could provide a proper  and satisfactory medical service to the people, when he could not even have a proper grasp of  the language of the people to whom he is to serve; and to what extent would broken communication between doctor and patient be detrimental to the health service provided?

We strongly urge the PSD and the MOH to reconsider the waiver and thereto to uphold the constitutional and legal provisions that have placed our National Language as a key element that must be respected by all Malaysian citizens.

 

Fatihah Jamhari

Secretary General

Concerned Lawyers for Justice

4th of July 2017

 

[1] https://kpkesihatan.com/2017/07/02/kenyataan-akhbar-kpk-2-julai-2017-kelonggaran-syarat-lulus-bahasa-melayu-bm-di-peringkat-sijil-pelajaran-malaysia-spm-bagi-tujuan-lantikan-secara-kontrak-pegawai-perubatan-ud41-di-kementerian-ke/

[2] Ibid

[3] Article 152 of the Federal Constitution, to be read together with Section 2 of the National Language Acts 1963/67.

[4] Merdeka University Berhad v Government of Malaysia [1982] 2 MLJ 243 @ 249

[5] ‘Local Chinese Youth Divided on Importance of Speaking in BM in Malaysia’, The Malaysian Insider, 2015, defunct http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/youths-divided-on-importance-of-speaking-bm-in-malaysia

[6] ‘Research Found Malaysian Chinese Do Not Give Due Attention to bahasa Malaysia (sic) Usage’, UKM Portal, May 27th, 2014, retrieved from http://www.ukm.my/news/archive/tahun-2014/mei-2014/research-found-malaysian-chinese-do-not-give-due-attention-to-bahasa-malaysia-usage/

[7] ‘604 Pelatih PLKN tidak boleh bercakap bahasa Melayu’, Utusan Malaysia, October 25th, 2014, retireived on 30th October 2016 from http://www.utusan.com.my/berita/nasional/604-pelatih-plkn-tidak-boleh-bercakap-bahasa-melayu-1.16607

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