Part II of an article by Yuktes Vijay on How Bahasa Melayu Became Our National Language
The first part ended with the passing of the Malaysian Education Policy 1961 and the National Language Act 1967 which installed the Malay language (Bahasa Melayu) as the national and official language.
During the second reading of the Act on 02 March 1967, the then Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman reiterated that ‘the National language was the one and only means of binding together the peoples of various origins in the country and achieving the goal of loyalty thus providing a guarantee for peace and harmony’.
MCA and MIC Supported Bahasa Melayu To Foster Unity
In that same report, Finance Minister Tun Tan Siew Sin, who was also the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) President, described the day as an ‘auspicious and historic one for the country’. Echoing Tan’s views was the Minister of Works, Posts and Telecommunications and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) President, Tun V.T. Sambanthan who also described the Bill as a simple solution to a complex problem. According to Sambanthan, the solution comprised three essential ingredients: goodwill, tolerance and friendship.
It has to be noted here that both Tan and Sambanthan also assured the government that they wouldn’t ask for the Chinese and Tamil languages to be given official recognition.
Despite a certain degree of acceptance among the top two non Malay leaders and their parties (meaning most Chinese and Indians), there were many other not so good people who, for reasons best known to them, were against BM being our national language.
Lee Kuan Yew, Lim Kit Siang Opposed Bahasa Melayu To Be The National Language
Lee argued that Bahasa Melayu was not suitable as the national language because it was inferior to the Chinese Language and demanded that Malaya follow the footsteps of Switzerland who have four national languages. Subsequently, however, Lee chose BM as Singapore’s national language because the other option was the Chinese language. To avoid the communist stigma and to appease the Chinese in Singapore, he then chose BM instead of English.
Echoing Lee’s view was Kit Siang who held that it was racist and chauvinistic to make Bahasa Melayu as the national language (the opinion he might even maintain until today perhaps?).
Seeds of discontentment sowed by those two is the reason why till today, persistent identification of the Malay language with the Malay ethnic group remains with the non-Malays under the impression that using Malay as losing their cultural identity.
The resulting discontentment was defused when then DPM Tun Razak made it quite clear that any direct or even indirect attack on the National Language as the sole official language would be punishable under the Sedition Act of 1948.
What Tun Razak did may have defused the situation, but the seed of discontentment sowed by the PAP and DAP duo managed to put its roots in our Malaysian society.
What transpired above is what has ‘inspired’ people like Tony Fernandes, the founder of AirAsia, who tells the world that he does not speak Malay and an elected Member of Parliament from Kuching, Chong Chieng Jen, who refused to speak Bahasa Malaysia during the debate on the 2016 Supply Bill at the committee level for the Prime Minister’s Department in November 2015, to continuously undermine and disrespect our national language.
For people like Tony and Chong, I would like to share a ‘kutty story’ (kutty story means a short story in my mother tongue, Tamil).
Leaders Of Other Nations Who Were Proud Of Their National Language
Napoleon Bonaparte rarely ever used any language other than French despite being fluent in English. Alexander the Great is the reason behind the Greek names of most European cities to this very day. In the pursuit of Italian supremacy in the arts, the Medicis went all out in the propagation of Italian art which included the language. The Catholic Church keeps its use of Latin as its official language to this very day.
The current Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi stopped using English which we all know he is very fluent at, but sticks to Hindi which is his national language, and does so even at international meetings. The Russian President is known to abhor speaking in English unless he needs to. No country in 5,000 years has succeeded with its economy and development depending on a language other than one from its own ethnic identity.
Every great leader has striven to strengthen the national language. Not insult or disregard it.
Hidup Bahasa Melayu! – New Malaysia Herald