PETALING JAYA: Nineteen Universiti Malaya (UM) academic and administrative staff and five teachers who were allegedly discriminated against in their employment after refusing Covid-19 vaccination are looking to the High Court to protect their constitutional rights, their lawyer has told FMT.
This follows a Court of Appeal decision to dismiss the attorney-general’s appeal against a Shah Alam High Court order allowing the group to pursue judicial review proceedings.
On Feb 7, a three-member panel led by Justice Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera ruled the applicants were entitled to have the merits of their case heard by the High Court.
In doing so, the appeals court rejected the AG’s contention that granting leave was tantamount to allowing the group to challenge Putrajaya’s entire Covid-19 vaccination programme.
“The AG’s claim is misplaced. We are not challenging the government’s vaccination programme,” their lawyer, Amin Anuar, told FMT.
Instead, Amin said his clients were challenging its implementation policy for public service officers as set out in Service Circular No. 4/2021 dated Oct 18, 2021.
The five teachers are also challenging the School Management and Operation Guidelines 3.0, which have since been revoked.
The group says the circular and guidelines are unconstitutional as they violate the Federal Constitution and fail to take into account that the government never made vaccination mandatory.
“Despite this, my clients say the action taken against them made it seem as if the vaccines were compulsory. This is what they seek to challenge,” he said.
Amin is confident the group will succeed in the High Court.
Departments may set rules, but they must be in accordance with the law, he said.
“My clients may not be vaccinated, but that does not mean they can be stopped from carrying out their duties.
“Government departments can draw up reasonable measures, such as requiring their officers to take a PCR test from time to time and implementing social distancing measures, but they cannot stop my clients from working altogether,” he said.
He said the group is looking forward to the next phase of the case in the High Court, claiming his clients suffer discrimination even to this day.
“I told the judges (in the Court of Appeal) that the discrimination is ongoing,” said Amin, adding that it had affected his clients’ careers, future and family.
Until now, he said, they have been unable to set out the instances of alleged discrimination on affidavit as a stay of proceedings was in force while the appeal was ongoing.
“Now we can seek directions, including for the filing of affidavits and submissions,” he said.
The group has named the university’s registrar, the public services department (JPA) and its director-general Khairul Adib Abd Rahman, the health and education ministries and Putrajaya as respondents.