Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung and Majlis Pembangunan Pendidikan Islam Malaysia, which are mounting a renewed challenge against the legality of vernacular schools, have appointed senior lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla as their lead counsel.
Haniff, when contacted, confirmed the appointment. He had previously served as legal counsel to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The announcement was made by law firm Tetuan Amelda Fuad Abi & Adil, which is handling the legal challenge for the two NGOs.
The law firm, in a statement, said it had filed a writ of summons and statement of demand at the Kuala Lumpur High Court today.
The suit named the Education Ministry and Government of Malaysia as defendants.
It is seeking a declaration that the existence of Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools go against Article 152(1) of the Federal Constitution which defines Malay as the national language.
It also seeks for a declaration that a provision under the Education Act 1996, which allows the setting up of vernacular schools, as unconstitutional.
The suit also wants the Education Ministry and the government to take steps to ensure vernacular schools comply with Article 152(1) of the Federal Constitution within six months of the court's decision if it is in their favour.
The law firm stressed that their clients were not opposed to the learning of a third language but not as a medium of instruction in institutions that receive public funds.
The renewed suit comes after the Federal Court dismissed a similar challenge brought by lawyer Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz on grounds that it should have been filed at the High Court level.
Haniff is also involved in another high profile case where he is representing Muhammed Yusoff Rawther, who had made a sexual misconduct claim against PKR president Anwar Ibrahim.
Haniff had denied the suggestion that his representation of Yusoff showed a conspiracy involving Mahathir.
"I have acted for (Mahathir) before and there are still some matters I am attending to on his personal files, but as practising lawyers, we cannot refuse to take a brief from any client on any matter, except in exceptional situations," he had said.