(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The Attorney-General Datuk Gani Patail should publicly clarify whether the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is right when he warned on Sunday that “those who continue harping on the government’s decision to use English to teach science and mathematics in schools will be charged with sedition”.
An immediate clarification from the Attorney-General is warranted as Abdullah’s warning has seriously implicated the office of Attorney-General, by raising questions about its impartiality, professionalism and non-political interference, with far-reaching consequences on public confidence in the fair administration of justice and the just rule of law.
Under the Malaysian Constitution, the Attorney-General enjoys the sole discretion to decide on criminal prosecutions which can brook no interference from any quarter, whether by way of directive or any form of instruction, from even the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister.
Abdullah’s warning that those who continue to disagree with the government’s decision to use English to teach Science and Mathematics, particularly from Std. One in primary schools, will be charged with sedition raises two questions:
Firstly, whether a policy decision has been taken whereby the Attorney-General will automatically charge all those “who continue harping on the government’s decision to use English to teach science and mathematics in schools”, including those who genuinely believe that the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council’s “2:4:3” formula for Std. One in Chinese primary schools is educationally unsound and fails to fulfil the “123 Test” of firstly, enhancing English proficiency; secondly maintaining high standards in mathematics and science; and thirdly, preserving the character of mother-tongue education and that the “2:4:3” proposal should be modified as by devoting all the nine new periods to the teaching of English; and
Secondly, whether the Attorney-General’s Chambers have reached a policy decision that any disagreement with the government’s decision to use English to teach Science and Mathematics, particularly from Std. One in national, Chinese and Tamil primary schools, is ipso facto an offence of sedition?
In the interest of public confidence in the Attorney-Generals Chambers, Gani Patail should state whether he has made these two decisions, namely (i) that all those who continue to disagree with the government on this issue would be charged under the Sedition Act and (ii) that such a disagreement is an offence under the provisions of the Sedition Act 1948.
The announcement by Abdullah on Sunday has given rise to the implication that the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister has unlawfully and unconstitutionally ousted and abrogated the sole prerogative of the Attorney-General to decide on criminal prosecutions, and this is why an immediate clarification from Gani Patail is not only warranted but imperative so as not to undermine the fragile public confidence in the administration of justice in the country.
In this connection, the Attorney-General’s Chamber should seriously consider running an orientation course in law for all Cabinet Ministers so that they are fully conversant with the do’s and don’ts in their public pronouncements touching on law, and in particular, so that they do not impinge or transgress into jurisdictions which are completely outside the province of the Cabinet – as the highly-educated Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim, despite or may be because his doctoral thesis on “Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia – A study of executive supremacy” is most guilty of such misdemeanour.
If the Attorney-General’s Chambers has not made anyone or both of the two decisions, viz. that those who disagree with the government to use English to teach science and mathematics is ipso facto committing a sedition offence and that they will be charged with sedition, then Abdullah should have the humility to publicly admit his error and withdraw his baseless warning about charging those who dissent from the government decision on the use of English to teach science and mathematics under the Sedition Act.
*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman