Guan Eng’s Mandarin statement – Beware the duality of Malaysian politicking


Why are we so insecure as a nation even after breaking free from the chains of a regime that ruled for over six decades, wonders JD Lovrenciear.

The recent public reactions over the finance minister communicating in Mandarin clearly reveals certain Malaysian political truths.

We have not fully grasped the new Malaysia that was only clinched after three general elections.

Lim Guan Eng communicated matters of government in Mandarin. He did that on his personal social media platform (Facebook). Several quarters screamed that he was not being “nationalistic”. Others said it was a “small issue” that should not be blown out of proportion.

All these indicate Malaysia is far from being a grown-up nation of democratic values. It clearly attests – even if we find it difficult to accept – that we are wallowing in the same cesspool of race and culture traps. Why are we so insecure as a nation even after breaking free from the chains of a regime that ruled for over six decades using race, religion, rulers and political divides to remain in power?

Do we not see the truth of cultures and languages, which can be assets in this networked 21st Century global society? Why do we battle with swords of insecurity and narrow views over which language is appropriate?

On the one hand, we profess that we must embrace the language of the world, English.

Then again, some quarters insist that Bahasa Malaysia (sometimes said to be Bahasa Melayu or Bahasa Kebangsaan, at one time) must be the only medium of communication for a minister.

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Anyway, what is so wrong – morally, principally, or even politically – about communicating with target audiences in the language that they best understand?

We write, we announce, we make press statements to communicate. We also communicate demands in the hope that the receivers understands what is being said.

Malaysia should remain a potpourri of languages – and why not? Yes, Malay may be the ‘official’ language as sanctioned by the government. But what is so wrong in translating what was in the official language into any other languages that are best understood by the various ethnic communities that we label as Malaysians? Would writing in Mandarin, Tamil, Urdu, Jawi or Arabic make us all unpatriotic or enemies of the state?

Instead of praising the finance minister for his efforts taken to bring the official government message to all quarters of society, we condemn him for communicating in a language other than Bahasa Malaysia. It is time Malaysians grew up and embraced the networked society that we cannot stay out from. Versatility in languages is a bonus in communication. It is no more a political whip to drive people in decided directions.

The fact is, in a multiracial society – which is not unique to Malaysia and can be found in many other parts of the world in the 21st Century – languages are not the prerogative of governments. Restrictions on languages are not an express right.

The freedom to communicate in a variety of languages is a necessity in this modern world. We should pride ourselves that Malaysia has a diverse potpourri of languages, making us ready to be part of the global community. Hence, Lim Guan Eng should not buckle under pressure by narrow-minded people who scream the outdated lyrics of “you cannot speak any other language except the national language to communicate official news”.

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If we still want to remain in the security of the proverbial frog in the well (katak di bawah tempurong), we might as well change all public signages, advertising, and television and radio programmes to a single language and start communicating only in that language to the whole wide world including over social media.

Malaysians including politicians must grow up before its too late to embrace the positive aspects of globalisation.

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2 Jul 2018 7.17pm

Why do you even bother to serve your target audiences with the language they favor? President Jokowi entertained international interviews in Bahasa Indonesia while being asked in English on BBC. Kim Jong Un is spoke Hangul with President Trump. Both retaliate English by their own National Official Language. They owned it and proud and this indirectly potray power to the targeting audiences especially in official government matters. You want to enggage with us, please obey to our procedure. I am sure this will never happen to highly patriotic countries like Japan, Russia and South Korea.

jyn chung
jyn chung
6 Jul 2018 4.47am
Reply to  Dalila

Dalila. Very revealing you use the word “obey to ” your procedure. You have no respect for other cultures, wanting everyone other race submit to your demands. Good luck cos it ain’t happening. The country was robbed till its currency spiralled downward and all the supporters of the thieving PM were blind to the damage or unable to understand the warnings given by the rest of the world media. Unable to understand because they given, in English, French, German, Swedish, Chinese etc. You sit there still like the frog in the pond, oblivious to all that has happened, not because you do not understand English but because you do not understand right and wrong.

Ng wye kong.
Ng wye kong.
2 Jul 2018 11.48am

You got a very good point. Why are we so afraid of other language. Up wake up Malaysian an move forward.

2 Jul 2018 8.36am

The next time Guan Eng will seek permission when ever he has a 100% Chinese audience ; on their language preference . Malaysia with PH has more important issues to deal with currently , so let us not fall into the trap of rhetoric and politicking by parties who have no good intention for the nation . Get back to work everyone.

2 Jul 2018 6.44am

This is Malaysia, where official language of the government is Bahasa Melayu. Can use other language as you like for other purposes

2 Jul 2018 2.44am

Truly agree with u kakistocracy. Lge (supporters) always say that its umno members who are attacking lge for this issue. Im a staunch supporter of PH and i am sad as lge’s action only caused uproar and disunity. Bahasa melayu should not only be targeted at malays but to all races in malaysia. Its an official language btw. Obama doesnt try to speak kenyan language in his official statement or translation. He used other languages only durig campaign. Mr lge, now is not the campaign time. U are now a government official.

1 Jul 2018 8.02pm

What new Malaysia?There is reason why this country is named “Malay-sia” and not “China-sia” or “India-sia”. It was never about UMNO , BN or the previous Perikatan it is about the Malays isnt it? LGE issued the official statement in Mandarin not BM. It should be in BM first ,Mandarin and Tamil CC. That would be an acceptable protocol. He is not in a DAP office but as Malaysia Finance Min.He was adamant in in breaking that protocol. As far as protocol goes, even PH never list that in their manifesto. You guys got your logic short circuit by the adrenalin overload when we all did our part in ousting Jibbie and BN but blinded to the fact that in exchange we have elected another crook…! The sifu of all sifu crooks! Read your history books.

2 Jul 2018 10.31am
Reply to  kakistocracy

Didn’t you know that the statement was first issue in Malay and English? The Chinese version was merely a translation that followed. A wise person will investigate, analyse and conclude. A fool believes and does whatever he wants to believe as true. And the choice is yours which one you want to become.

Nora Brave
Nora Brave
2 Jul 2018 10.34am
Reply to  kakistocracy

Bro LGE issued the statement in BM first, then only English and Mandarin. Pls understand the full story first before commenting here

1 Jul 2018 7.47pm

Honestly is this the best the so called new opposition can do? Attack someone’s mother language? Kecoh la.

Steven Ong
1 Jul 2018 3.43pm

The majority of those who protested against LGE are from UMNO and some ultras from the other parties. LGE issued BM, English and Chinese statements, why no protest on the English statements? BM statement was issued first, followed by the English n Chinese statements.

1 Jul 2018 7.43pm
Reply to  Steven Ong

True. Its the usual propaganda by umno cybertroopers since they can’t attack the man’s principles. And hey presto our media is out and about repeating their message. I suggest that our media should also vet through what is real news and what is divisive propaganda. I dont think anyone cares what Najib says also. Stop giving them free airtime!

Wengseng Chan
1 Jul 2018 1.49pm

Charge these narrow minded bigots for sedition?

Melvin Tan
Melvin Tan
8 Jul 2018 7.50pm
Reply to  Wengseng Chan

Don’t be a frog inside a well. Jump up and see the true world. BM alone cannot survive in this fast changing world. No one can deny that Mandarin is useful and pupular throughout the world.