PUTRAJAYA: The cabinet today rejected the health ministry’s decision to relax the national language “pass” requirement for all medical graduates.
The decision was reached at the weekly cabinet meeting today, which was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Zahid said the cabinet was committed to upholding Article 152 of the Federal Constitution which revolves around the national language.
“Malay is the national language and the official language of the federation,” he told reporters.
The cabinet, he added, had also agreed to amendments to the Medical Act 1971 which made it compulsory for potential housemen to pass Bahasa Melayu (BM).
Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam meanwhile expressed hope that the issue would now be settled.
“Hope the issue is now settled since the cabinet has made a unanimous decision,” he said to reporters at a press conference.
According to the minister, out of the 4,500 medical graduates, only 23 were given the relaxation.
He said 11 out of 23 are Malays.
Subramaniam said that most of those involved are children of diplomats.
“This is because they follow a different education system in other countries.”
He said those involved need to pass their SPM BM exam before they can be certified medical officers.
Recently, some medical graduates from private institutions who were waiting for housemanship placements were told they had to “go back to school”.
The graduates were told to obtain a pass in the SPM-level BM paper if they wanted permanent government posts.
Subramaniam added that discussions with the education ministry would be held to permit BM be taken as a single SPM subject, which all medical graduates will now need to pass.
According to an email from the Public Service Department (PSD), from Oct 1 last year, the appointment of UD41-grade housemen had been carried out on a contract basis.
On July 2, the health ministry announced the relaxation of the national language “pass” requirement for contract medical workers, meaning the medical housemen.
The department said this was to allow medical graduates who did not have an SPM-level BM pass to serve and get full registration certificates as medical officers.
The PSD said if the candidates wanted to apply for permanent posts, then SPM-level BM was required.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had said earlier that the relaxation of the BM rule was meant for medical graduates who had undergone overseas education and those who sat for the O-level examination at an international school or took the BM subject in university.