KUCHING: English language or rather the use of this ‘colonial language’ as some people in Malaysia have termed it, is in the limelight yet again.
It has sparked off the latest round of debates, especially among political leaders.
Sarawak has made it very clear, as explained by Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, that the state’s civil service will continue using English as the second official language alongside Bahasa Malaysia (BM).
Previously in May, Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali suggested that the Public Service Department (PSD) should consider punitive measures to enforce the use BM in the civil service.
Recently, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang made headlines with his statement that those who encouraged the use of English were still stuck in the colonial mindset.
“They are behaving like slaves to the former colonial masters despite having been freed from their clutches,” PAS organ Harakah quoted him.
Members of the public interviewed by the New Sarawak Tribune spoke their mind on the issue.
Syamirul Hakimi, 24, who works as a sponsored content writer, says it is unfair to punish an individual if they choose to speak in English instead of Malay.
“We have to realise that we are a multi-racial country with people of different backgrounds, so all of that must be taken into account.
“I do not see any issue in using English and I believe not everyone is being stuck in the “colonial mindset”, he says.
He points out that if the political leaders want to elevate the Malay language to an international level, then Malaysian leaders should start practising what they preach.
Public relations officer Nurul Arfah echoes the same sentiment.
The 23-year-old says she does not agree with the statement and deems it as incorrect.
“I agree that the Malay language is our national language and we should preserve it. However, the revolution of the education system enables many of us to have the ability to speak English to the point that some even prefer to use English as their primary language.
“That doesn’t mean they are slaves to the colonizers, it is just that people nowadays are more open to evolution.”
Fernadez Watson, 26, a civil servant, also shares the views of Syamirul and Nurul.
He says speaking in English makes all things convenient for everyone.
“When it involves official or informal duties with outsiders or tourists, English makes it easier for us to communicate and interact.
“We also should be reminded that both English and Malay languages could be used for official matters, which is in accordance with the state constitution,” he says.
Wan Aisyah, 24, a postgraduate student, says Hadi’s statement may seem to be poorly justified.
“English is common in relation to international matters, and we should move together with the current needs of the industries.
“Malaysians have come far from the colonised mindset; however, we should never forget our past and take history lightly as we have fought hard for our independence,” she says.