Bahasa Malaysia – by itself will not promote togetherness, unity and integration among Malaysians


Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday that the reversion of the designation of the national language as Bahasa Malaysia as in the first three decades of nationhood was intended to promote togetherness, unity and integration among Malaysians.

He said the government did not want to see the Cabinet’s decision in April being turned into polemics.

He said: “Our view regarding the national language is that it is owned by everyone, regardless of race and ethnicity.

“Although the national language is Malay, we want to make it a language for all. That is the rationale (for the change).”

Although this is the latest “flip-flop” of the Barisan Nasional government under the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, I support it.

I welcome both the restoration of Bahasa Malaysia as the official reference to the national language and Najib’s explanation, especially as Najib was one of those responsible in turning the issue into polemics in 1986.

Although Anwar Ibrahim is being blamed for the change from Bahasa Malaysia to Bahasa Melayu in 1986 when he was Education Minister, one of Anwar’s strongest supporters in the change at the time was none other than Najib, who was then the Deputy Umno Youth leader to Anwar as the Umno Youth leader.

It has taken Najib more than 20 years to fully understand and accept the DAP’s arguments at the time criticizing the change on the ground that the national language must transcend its racial origin to become a language of all Malaysians regardless of race, language, religion or culture. It is better late than never.

However, the restoration of the term Bahasa Malaysia to designate the national language does not mean that the various mother-tongues of multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-cultural Malaysia are not Malaysian languages — as all mother-tongues of Malaysians must be fully recognized as an integral part of the Malaysian linguistic and cultural mosaic.

It must also be recognized that the mere reversion to Bahasa Malaysia to refer to national language by itself will not promote togetherness, unity and integration among Malaysians particularly if Cabinet Ministers continue to be narrow-minded and lack broad nationalist and even globalist outlook.

Malaysia is marking 50th anniversary of nationhood since Independence in 1957. Apart from restoration of Bahasa Malaysia to refer to the national language and the hundreds of millions of ringgit to be spent on fireworks, banquets and other forms of extravangza, what bold and challenging initiatives have the Cabinet come up with to make the half-a-century of nationhood anniversary celebrations most meaningful in leapfrogging the country forwards in promoting togetherness, unity and integration among Malaysians?

Recent events and developments involving top government leaders are not encouraging signs that the Cabinet has any real clue as to how to use the 50th Merdeka anniversary celebrations to make a quantum leap for the Malaysian nation-building process.

Malaysia lacks a Cabinet with the broadmindedness, imagination, courage and globalist outlook to deal with grave problems and challenges facing the country, including:

  • the unresolved Malay keris-wielding scandal by the Umno Youth leader and Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein in circumstances showing utter contempt for the sensitivities and rights of all Malaysians and his arrogant and “childish” refusal to meet up with Dong Jiao Zong to discuss the National Education Blueprint 2006-2010 and Chinese education;

  • the continued decline in international competitiveness with no political will to create a national environment where excellence in education and towering Malaysians regardless of race or religion could surface and flourish;
  • the indifference to a new exodus of brain-drain with the best and brightest turning to emigration in their disappointment that they do not have an equal place under the Malaysian sun; and
  • the religious polarization and constitutional crisis stemming from a spate of cases, the latest being the Lina Joy case.

If Najib is serious about wanting to promote togetherness, unity and integration among Malaysians, these are some of the problems he must urgently get the Cabinet to address and resolve in conjunction with Malaysia’s 50th Merdeka anniversary.

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  1. #1 by Jimm on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 10:11 am

    It’s just another political events to ‘tell’ the Malays about their superior status in Malaysia. All because of the game plan to win again by bigger margins in the coming GE.
    It’s an alarm clock or friendly reminder !!!!!

  2. #2 by megaman on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 10:17 am

    I think the damage is done …

    By changing the name of the national language from Bahasa Malaysia to Bahasa Melayu previously, they make clear their intention of the Malay supremacy policy.

    Now, when things are going wrong and rakyat starts to grumble and make noise, they change it back to Bahasa Malaysia as a small meaningless token to appease the non-bumis.

    But the same persons who made the original decisions are still in power. How sincere are they in pushing for national integration when they are the ones who demolished it in the first place ?

    How can the non-bumis trust BN now ? And how can the bumis themselves trust BN ?

  3. #3 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 10:33 am

    The Chinese are proud of their language, customs and culture. After all Chinese civilization was long in existence before Western civilization – thousands of years earlier.

    So why should the Chinese accept a language so undeveloped and inferior as Bahasa Malaysia or Melayu?

  4. #4 by Jimm on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 10:43 am

    All language will have a strong and rich culture and need not to be ‘forced’. It’s only when the owner of the language starts to fear about their existance created such backward civilization changes.
    Ours are mainly coming from Indonesia and evolved into a new dimension by of colonism and most education back then are supported by the British. We just keep going back and try to change things for what.

  5. #5 by lakshy on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 10:57 am

    Calling it BM or Rojak or Apathy or whatever is not going to bring unity. Unity can only be brought about by putting principles of equality in place. And that wont happen in YB LKS or even my lifetime. Probably never will.

    So forget about instilling racial unity. I will keep supporting the Indian Hockey team when it plays against malaysia as will many people support the Chinese Badminton team.

  6. #6 by HJ Angus on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 12:08 pm

    BM has long been accepted as the national language and nowadays younger are quite fluent, even winning best prizes for B Malaysia.

    I agree that it is the government’s policies such as the NEP (Never Ending Policy) that have eroded the nation’s harmony and competitiveness.

    I am sure the majority of Malaysians do support programs to help the hardcore poor to better themselves but not the present scheme where it appears the rich get richer without limits.

    If you want to read more, do visit my blog. I have too many articles to post here!

  7. #7 by winc on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 12:25 pm

    Be practical.

    It does not matter to champion whatever national languages for all one should bother but realizing what is the prerequisite language required to stay competitive out there in the globalized sphere.

    If Bahasa Malaysia is the national language and if i do not speak a word of it i will still survive away from this small country and the world is waiting for me. Comparatively if i cannot converse in English or Mandarin; i will only have my little Malaysia for myself not forgetting you need to be in “their team” to live the survival requirements laid down by them.

    Come on – Malaysia !

  8. #8 by winc on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 12:38 pm

    “So forget about instilling racial unity. I will keep supporting the Indian Hockey team when it plays against malaysia as will many people support the Chinese Badminton team.” – lakshy

    I beg to differ from your view. I would still support the Malaysian team irregardless who their opponents are. National unity can always come from sports BUT it only happens in our country that the entire spectrum of the sports subject is thoroughly exploited and propagated by certain parties to gain political mileage.

    Look at Karamjit Singh who is a world class driver and this mighty man stands next to Michael Shumacher when they received their FIA awards but the only difference you see in them is Shuey is from Germany and Mr. Karamjit is from Malaysia whereby the latter has to go out there to BEG for sponsorships. He does not get a few millions to do the artics like others. He raced in his own cars and suprisingly he had had a chinese co-driver when he won the world title.

    Malaysia Boleh !! Come on.

  9. #9 by KathyGriffin on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 12:38 pm

    Bahasa Malaysia – by itself will not promote togetherness, unity and integration among Malaysians. Yes, as long as Malaysians like you guys love to complain this and that, anti-establishment….there is no unity!

  10. #10 by KathyGriffin on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 12:44 pm

    hmnnnn..the core issue here is Bahasa Malaysia – by itself will not promote togetherness, unity and integration among Malaysians because few people like you are anti-establishment and anti- unity. Any positive issues always be another negative issues.

  11. #11 by sotong on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 12:46 pm

    It is not about economic and commercial advantage.

    It’s about the country’s identity and her unique bumi culture and traditions.

    Bahasa Malaysia is utmost important to protect this for the benefit of generations to come and the ordinary bumi should not be denied their way of life.

  12. #12 by winc on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 1:34 pm

    Well said and if it is an identity, no shoutings required to protect it. It has been a national language all these while be it B. Melayu / Malaysia and to propagate it under racial unity is just “unjust”. Does this mean that there was no national unity before this? No. Not that i reckoned.

    The problem here is at one point there was B. Melayu and another B. Malaysia and you need leaders to come out and defend its identity and each carries different agenda under national unity.

    Have you heard of other countries where leaders need to introduce their own national language? Guess you only find it here…

  13. #13 by lakshy on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 2:18 pm

    winc ….I agree with you, but the reality is that in Malaysia, even in sports there si discrimination against the races. So in the end my chinese friends support the badminton team from China, while I support the Hockey team from India. We have become racist due to the actions of these leaders. And we will knowingly or unknowingly pass it on to our children.

    The DPM said “Our view is that the national language is owned by everyone, regardless of race and ethnicity”. I dont claim ownership for BM. I was forced to learn it to pass primary and secondary schools. I was taught science and maths in that language, with a mixture of many BM terms and english terms too.

    Now, if they wake up and said, it is Malaysia and not Tanah Melayu because it is owned by everyone, and everyone to be treated equally…….thats a different piece of cake altogether!

  14. #14 by whc on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 3:00 pm

    unity comes about by sharing with one another and everybody going for the same national vision and mission and not by using either bahasa melayu or bahasa malaysia.Don’t keep depriving other nationalities (malaysian) but just keep on helping your own people.

  15. #15 by winc on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 3:22 pm

    “hmnnnn..the core issue here is Bahasa Malaysia – by itself will not promote togetherness, unity and integration among Malaysians because few people like you are anti-establishment and anti- unity. Any positive issues always be another negative issues.”- KathyGriffin.

    I sing Negaraku in Bahasa and until today i still sing the same song alongside my Malay, Indian and friends of other races before the flag. i speak fluent Bahasa and communicate well with my friends in Bahasa but does all this means better unity?

    Will my bahasa feeds me my opportunity to higher education with full scholarships from the goverment? Will my bahasa allows me to buy properties and assets at discounted rates? Will my bahasa guarantee my future that i can make a living competitively on fairgrounds? No right…

    Do not propagate the issue of language that it is for all and national unity becomes the subject. As a citizen i done my part to learn the language, respect it and communicate with it as there is nothing wrong picking up an additional piece but as for the government, what have they done in regards to racial unity besides using it as a tool to secure votes?

  16. #16 by lakshy on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 3:36 pm

    whc…helping whose own people? In the pretext of helping the malays, the powers that be are on large scale rape of the country. They are plundering like tehre is no tomorrow…and in the guise of special privileges they benefit themselves.

  17. #17 by sotong on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 3:55 pm

    Decades of bad leadership and administration had an enormous impact on the country and her people.

    Throwing money at the problems does not achieve permanent and long term results.

    Reckless spending to boost the economy is not good economic management.

  18. #18 by smeagroo on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 5:18 pm

    SOme say Po-ta-to some say po-tay-to. End of the day we still hv keris wielding ministers and some shouting “kalau u tak suka boleh keluar dari Msia”.

    TO mke it doesnt really matter if they renamed it to Bahasa Rojak. And the flip-flop administration is evident as we dont see them using Bahasa BAKU also. Maybe tak LAKU liao. And more and more words taken directly from the English language without shame.

  19. #19 by mendela on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 10:01 pm

    Few years ago I was told by a professor that according to a study, Bahasa is probably the easiest languages in the world!

    Grammars of Bahasa is simple.
    Pronunciation of Bahasa is simple.
    Vocabulary of Bahasa is few.

    No wonder Malaysia is retarding over these years.
    The worst is many Malaysians especially the Malays know only Bahasa!

  20. #20 by k1980 on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 11:30 pm

    Go to any library or better still, the internet and count the number of scientific books / websites that are in Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia. Morever, the majority of science reference books are extremely poor translations of English/American text. For a person to rely on only BM alone is to allow his own brain to rot

  21. #21 by greenacre on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 11:44 pm

    If language can unite people, english language would/could have united the whole world but didn’t.
    Language is merely a tool to greater end. Someone is hoping to build utopia with Ethiopia in their mind.

  22. #22 by moong cha cha II on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 - 3:37 am

    My suggestion:

    either all of us be know as “Bumiputra” or all of us be known as “Non-Bumiputra”.

    No need to force us to raise the flag on Merdeka or sing the Negaraku.

    Once there is true unity, all other actions will follow naturally by the Rakyat.

    Racist party such as UMNO be disbanded.

    Other parties such as MCA and MIC, since they are not protecting the interests of the people but merely following the orders of their master, should also be disbanded or merged to become the “Malaysian Eunuch Association” to reflect their actual colors

  23. #23 by moong cha cha II on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 - 8:24 am

    just call us all “Bumiputras” and we will become united.

  24. #24 by k1980 on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 - 11:52 am

    just call us all “Bumiputras” —- then there won’t be enough to go around. The Malaysian economic pie is way too small to fill the stomachs of all its 25 million mouths. That is why the NEP is maintained after umpteen years— to fill the stomachs of a selected and priviledged few

  25. #25 by good coolie on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 - 1:50 pm

    I used to speak “Melayu” with my Malay friends, especially with one Rahim, who was the only one who could eat sand(we were 4 years old at that time). Don’t say, Bahasa Malaysia, or Bahasa, or Bahasa Melayu. Just say “Melayu” or “Malay”. If I were a Tamilan, I wouldn’t want my language being termed “language”(Moli)(Bahasa). I would want it termed, “Tamil”. And as for the frequent change in the name of the national language(there we go again!), it reminds me of the pendulum, DING, DONG, DING, DONG…

  26. #26 by good coolie on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 - 1:55 pm

    Today, I am in a very generous mood. Folks, everyone, especially my friend, k1980, is a Bumi from today! (Alamak, durian runtuh!): that is, Bumiputra, and, Bumi non-putra!

  27. #27 by Loh on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 - 3:26 pm

    Article 160 (2) : “Malay” means a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay custom…

    Bahasa Melayu is an official translation of Malay language, but Bahasa Malaysia is not. Should not article 160 (2) be amended to accommodate the change?

  28. #28 by Godamn Singh on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 - 5:34 pm

    “Bahasa Melayu is an official translation of Malay language, but Bahasa Malaysia is not. Should not article 160 (2) be amended to accommodate the change?” Loh

    What nonsense are you talking about? This is the most convoluted reasoning I have come across.

  29. #29 by Kingkong on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 - 10:05 pm

    It does not really matter whether the language is called Bahasa Melayu or Bahasa Malaysia.

    To promote togetherness, unity and integration among Malaysians, the key is to give equal opportunity, be it government employment, GLC employment, Petronas employment or education to all qualified citizens irrespective whether they are Bumi or Non-Bumi.

    If there is no some kind of economic incentive for the Non-Bumi to master the Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia, it is naïve to think that non-Bumi would really cares so much for the language. One might as well focus on the English language which has some economics advantage in the private sector or global market.

  30. #30 by undergrad2 on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 - 10:19 pm

    Language has been politicized and it started in the 60s with Syed Nasir. At the time UMNO was under the control of the Malay school teachers among whom was Ghaffar Baba who couldn’t speak English though he later married a Taiwanese who could!

    What is wrong with being bilingual and trilingual?? With Malay as the national language rather than the official language. The business of government should be conducted in English.

  31. #31 by undergrad2 on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 - 10:20 pm

    The language of our courts should be English.

  32. #32 by RGRaj on Thursday, 7 June 2007 - 12:14 am

    The national language of Singapore is Malay. Compared to Malaysia, all three major languages (Malay, Chinese, Tamil + English) are represented in many signboards. I saw a lot in the MRTs.

  33. #33 by AnakTiriMalaysia on Thursday, 7 June 2007 - 7:08 pm

    Perhaps We should change the country’s name too. Malaysia…. still reflects one of the race…. so there is one race claim that ‘it is their land’ , get preferential treatment, regard themselves as ‘TUAN” in this country…..

    so what kind of unity are you talking about?

    Unity start from
    1.Equal opportunity for all based on meritocracy
    2.There should not be segregation of races to Bumiputra &.
    non-bumiputra (WE ARE ALL BUMIPUTRA OF THIS WORLD ..
    . not Aliens.
    3. Ban all racial parties like UMNO , form multiracial parties… and
    the best man become prime minister….regardless of his/her
    race

    Then how about change the country’s name to PEACELAND….or
    HARIMAUPURA OR bOLEHLAND? (more neutral name…without racist tone)

    Only then we can talk about the REAL UNITY

    If a descendant of slave like ABRAHAM LINCOLN can become President of USA…. or the present one…. another descendant of slaves – Condoleeza Rice can become State secretary of USA, why not Malaysia?

    Common….. change the Jaguh Kampung mentality!!!

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