Kuantan traders challenge state govt, town council over Jawi signage

An advertisement in Jawi on a pedestrian bridge in Kuantan. Starting this year, all business premises and road signs in Pahang must use the Jawi script. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Three businessmen have filed an application for a judicial review against the Kuantan Municipal Council and the Pahang government to revoke the use of Jawi on signboards at their premises.

Jehan Abdullah, Phang Long Yen and A Dana Palan want the High Court to quash the state executive council’s March 1, 2018 decision to uplift the use of Jawi.

The trio also wants the local authority to revoke an order dated April 3, 2019 to all business outlets which come under its jurisdiction to prominently display the Jawi signage.

They also want a declaration that Section 107 (2) of the Local Government Act (LGA) 1976 is in breach of the equality clause under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution.

That provision states that every licence or permit granted shall be subject to conditions and restrictions as the local authority may think fit and shall be revocable at any time without giving a reason.

They also want an order that the state government’s decision be suspended pending the disposal of the judicial review proceeding.

The application sighted by FMT was filed by Messrs Gunaseelan & Associates yesterday. The applicants need to first obtain leave before the court ventures to hear the merits of their grievances.

Dana Palan, who filed an affidavit in support of the application, said the council sent circulars dated Aug 1 last year that legal action would be taken against owners of business premises who refused to adhere to the directive.

He said subsequently a guideline on the use of Jawi on signboards was issued and came into effect from Jan 1 this year.

Dana Palan said Phang on Jan 14 received a summons for refusing to display the Jawi signboard at his premises.

He said he was advised by his solicitors that since the local authority had failed to gazette the April 3, 2019 directive, the state’s decision could not be enforced.

He said the state had no authority to order the council to enforce the use of Jawi under Section 9 of the LGA.

According to the provision, the state can give local governments under its purview direction of a general character and not in contrary to any provision in the LGA.

“The decision by the state is irrational as only a few people in the locality can read and understand Jawi,” he said.

He said the state could not force the use of Jawi as it would be against Article 152 of the Federal Constitution and Section 9 of the Bahasa Malaysia Act.

State Local Government and Housing Committee chairman Abd Rahim Muda on Dec 31 said those who disobeyed the order could be fined up to RM250.

He said their business licences could also be revoked if they refused to follow the directive.

Pahang had announced that all business premises and road signs in the state should use Jawi, with the script equal in size to the Roman letters.