Malaysia as Chair of NAM and OIC should set an international example of celebrating United Nations anniversaries like International Anti-Corruption Day (Dec. 9), World Human Rights Day (Dec. 10) and International Mother Language Day (Feb. 21)


Speech  (2)
at the 2004 Perak DAP State Convention at Chin Woo Hall
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Sunday): Malaysia as Chair of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) should set an international example of celebrating United Nations anniversaries like International Anti-Corruption Day (Dec. 9), World Human Rights Day (Dec. 10) and International Mother Language Day (Feb. 21). 

It is most unfortunate that in the past week, the International Anti-Corruption Day on Dec. 9 to mark the first anniversary of  the signing conference for the United Nations Convention against Corruption held in Mérida, Mexico last December and the World Human Rights Day on Dec. 10 were not given official recognition by the government, raising questions about its commitment to anti-corruption and human rights. 

This matter should be given top priority consideration at next Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, which should set up a Cabinet Committee to celebrate all United Nations anniversaries in keeping with Malaysia’s responsibility as Chair of NAM and OIC to set an example to the international community.

I hope that for a start,  the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would announce that henceforth, Malaysia would officially celebrate the Anti-Corruption Day on Dec. 9, the World Human Rights Day on Dec. 10 and the International Mother Language Day on February 21.

For the past three  years, DAP had been the lone voice calling on both the Federal and  State  governments to celebrate the  annual  International Mother Language Day on February 21 in a big way as the country is the home of several mother tongues of its citizens.

The International Mother Language Day (IMLD) had not been given official recognition  in the past five   years since its proclamation by UNESCO General Conference in November 1999, with the first world-wide celebration held on February 21, 2000.

The DAP was the first political party to celebrate the IMLD in February 21, 2003  – in fact, it was the first time that the IMLD was celebrated in Malaysia, by the DAP with a programme each in Penang and Kuala Lumpur and by Dong Jiao Zong with an IMLD Festival in Kajang.

As the home to diverse mother-tongues, Malaysia is  the most ideal country  to lead the world in celebrating the IMLD with verve, vigour and imagination. Furthermore, Malaysia was one of the 28 countries which supported the Bangladesh proposal at the 30th General Conference of the UNESCO resulting in the unanimous adoption of a resolution declaring 21st February every year as IMLD.

Until recently in Malaysia, when we talk about protecting "mother-tongues", it invariably refers to Chinese, Tamil, Iban, Kadazan, Bidayuh, Orang Asli but excludes Malay as it is the official language of the country.

But Malay is also a mother-tongue that requires respect and protection especially with the globalization of communication and the tendency to use a single language – the English language -  at the risk of marginalizing the other major languages of the world and  even causing the lesser-used languages, including regional languages, to disappear.

In fact, there is the view that a language that is not on the Internet is a language that "no longer exists" in the modern world, which is why there is a global movement to protect mother tongues on the Internet through the promotion and use of multilingualism and universal access to cyberspace.

A study of the universal statistics on  the use of different languages on the Internet  will show that even the Malay language will have to safeguard its position from the threat of seeping global monolingualism - highlighting the importance of the IMLD even to the Malay language  in the global context.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman