Herald Language Ban Unconstitutional, Say Catholic Lawyers

The Catholic Lawyer’s Society of Kuala Lumpur claimed today that the Home Ministry’s decision to ban the Bahasa Melayu edition of the Herald is unconstitutional.

Society President Mabel Sebastian said Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar’s decision to bar the Malay edition inside the weekly paper contravened Article 3(1), 10(1)(a), 11(1) and (3) of the constitution which “grants the right to freely practise one’s religion, the general freedom of speech and expression and the right of every person and religious group to propagate and manage its own religious affairs”.

This new prohibition issued last week is to last until the High Court makes a determination on the current contest on the use of the word “Allah” in the Herald as a whole.

The lawyers’ group insists that the case and this new government edict are unrelated, and points out that the court has not ordered any prohibitions for the Malay edition.

Sebastian explained that the East Malaysian states had three times as many Catholics as the peninsula – 715,000 compared to 220,000 – and many of them use Malay as their medium language.

The minister is therefore denying 750,000 people the right to religious instruction, she claimed.

The society emphasises that “Malay is the national language, and not a single Malaysian should be deprived of the right to speak, read, write and even pray in our national language”.

The Kuala Lumpur group stressed that this development is a step backwards and asks the ministry to “revoke the language ban and issue an unconditional publication and printing permit for the Herald”.

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