BM and National Unity

I found this newspaper clipping while spring cleaning last week. It’s a letter to a newspaper (probably NST), published in 2001.

Every concerned Malaysians regardless of his/her race know well that Bahasa Melayu (BM) is our national language which is also a vital tool for national unity. Some of us might not want to accept the fact, but at least need to have some respect for its users.

English is still important as an international language especially in business and technology. That’s the proper and correct fact but inside our own country, English should not be used than in English classes, a conversation with foreigners and to study certain lessons in universities. Despite the improvement of Malaysian’s education quality which enabled more of us to be bilingual or even trilingual, English can hardly replace BM in our country. Malaysia is Malaysia and it is technology, not overused English that would put us on par with advanced countries.

The problem is not the Malays determination to defend their mother tongue — that’s their civil right much like Chines and Indian. The arrogance of some non-Malays on the language issue is one of the obstacles to interracial unity. I am really annoyed with stand by some of my own fellow non-Malay friend that stress the needs of Malays to speak in English to some non-Malays because they don’t want or don’t feel better speaking in Malay. Worse, they even try to ‘reinforce’ that ‘rule’ among their own community members!

It was very confusing since there is a statement that non-Malays had mastered BM even better than Malays themselves. If this was true then how come a lot of non-Malays talke like American or Brits to Malays at shop and office counters? If their leaders can talk fluent BM with reporters as we seen on TV, what’s the problem with those ordinary non-Malays?

I believe they could still earn respect from Malays even if their BM is on ‘bahasa pasar’ level rather than speaking standard, perfect English. They need to realise also, it would be impossible to speak English with old Malay people in villages, Tok Batin (indigenous peoples headman) in remote Post or Apai (long house leader) somewhere deep inside a Sarawak jungle!

For those who still want to uphold their ‘Anglo-lingua’ ego and zero-tolerant attitude, please think about htis: as long as we own blue-colored IC, we are citizens of Malaysia and should not have any difficulty speaking in Malay, at least to Malays. Don;t feel embarrassed when many foreigners learn BM keenly while we use English at wrong places and times with — I am non-Malay — excuses. I, a direct descendent of a British expatriate Malaysian citizen, can speak good Malay, and I don’t see why other Malaysian of Asian stock not being able to do so.

Gloria Benedict
Klang

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