Written by Stan Lee, Politics Now!
KUALA LUMPUR (Politics Now!) – Sarawak’s cool response that it had no intention of following Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s heated ‘Return to Sender’ order has sparked online sniggers and won the East Malaysian state more admiration for its no-nonsense and non-racial approach.
However, it is also likely to pit Sarawak Premier Abang Jo’s administration against Anwar’s ‘Madani’ federal government.
“That does not apply in Sarawak,” State Secretary Abu Bakar Marzukiwas quoted as saying by The Borneo Post.
NOT THE FIRST TIME ABANG JO GOES HEAD TO HEAD WITH PUTRAJAYA
On Wednesday, Anwar warned his directive to use and promote the national language – Malay – should not be taken lightly.
The prime minister also stated that anyone who wrote in a language other than the national language to government departments “will have their letter returned.”
““We agree with the use of English as the international trade language, but there is an attitude that I feel has gone too far and has deviated among some government departments, universities and private universities, including the private sector, which attempts to abandon the basis of the Constitution with regard to communicating with the government in the national language,” The Star had quoted Anwar as saying.
Indeed, this is not the first time Sarawak has held opposing views with the federal government when it comes to language-related policies.
In June last year, Abang Jo said the state civil service would continue using English as the official language, with Malay as the national language.
Abang Jo’s comments were in response to Chief Secretary to the federal government Zuki Ali’s statement that he wanted the public services department to look into actions that could be taken against those who did not take instructions to strengthen the national language seriously.
USING MALAY LANGUAGE MORE IMPORTANT THAN ECONOMIC SUCCESS?
Meanwhile, the ineffective Anwar has come under tremendous pressure due to loss of political popularity to Malay-centric parties including Pas and Bersatu. He has also been blamed for the failing to revive Malaysia’s ailing economy and the shock plunge of the local currency to its lowest level in history.
According to The Star, Anwar also said achieving economic success would mean little if the national language, which was part of the national culture, was not championed.
“I remind my friends that I would not have lectured at Washington University if I had not mastered the English language. “But coming down to earth and championing the national language is something important for nation-building,” he added.
ANWAR BACK TO HIS ‘MELAYU BARU’ DAYS & WAYS?
Anwar, who was the education minister in the 1980s, has frequently been accused of championing the use of the Malay language at the expense of English under the administration of then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Mahathir, who saw the pitfalls of neglecting English in a global economy where foreign investment flows and outsourcing of jobs were critical to developing nations such as Malaysia, had tried to keep the teaching of Mathematics and Science subjects in English. However, even the autocratic Mahathir could not fully succeed and instead drew unpopularity from the Malays, the largest electorate in the country, for his proposal.
Due to the sharp shift in language policies that intensified when Anwar was education minister, most Malaysians these days especially the young have a poor grasp of English, insufficient even to hold jobs that require basic speaking, writing and comprehension skills in that language.
This weakness is among the most common complaint of the majority of MNCs that operate or are planning to locate here. With tourism becoming a major contributor to GDP, experts see it as another stumbling block that needs to be reduced, rather than to be reinforced.
Article 152 of the Federal Constitution states that Malay is the national language, while the position of the Malay language is also specified in the National Language Act 1967.
Written by Stan Lee, Politics Now!