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.
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”.
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.