Forward    Feedback    


Reverting to Bahasa Malaysia to refer to national language by itself will not promote togetherness, unity and integration among Malaysians if Cabinet Ministers continue to be narrow-minded and lack broad nationalist and even globalist outlook

Media Statement      
by Lim Kit Siang  


(Parliament, Tuesday) : Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday that the reversion of the designation of the national language as Bahasa Malaysia as in the first three decades of nationhood was intended to promote togetherness, unity and integration among Malaysians.

He said the government did not want to see the Cabinet’s decision in April being turned into polemics. 

He said: “Our view regarding the national language is that it is owned by everyone, regardless of race and ethnicity. 

“Although the national language is Malay, we want to make it a language for all. That is the rationale (for the change).” 

Although this is the latest “flip-flop” of the Barisan Nasional government under the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, I support it.  

I welcome both the restoration of Bahasa Malaysia as the official reference to the national language and Najib’s explanation, especially as Najib was one of those responsible in turning the issue into polemics in 1986. 

Although Anwar Ibrahim is being blamed for the change from Bahasa Malaysia to Bahasa Melayu in 1986 when he was Education Minister, one of Anwar’s strongest supporters in the change at the time was none other than Najib, who was then the Deputy Umno Youth leader to Anwar as the Umno Youth leader. 

It has taken Najib more than 20 years to fully understand and accept the DAP’s arguments at the time criticizing the change on the ground that the national language must transcend its racial origin to become a language of all Malaysians regardless of race, language, religion or culture. It is better late than never. 

However, the restoration of the term Bahasa Malaysia to designate the national language does not mean that the various mother-tongues of multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-cultural Malaysia are not Malaysian languages – as all mother-tongues of Malaysians must be fully recognized as an integral part of the Malaysian linguistic and cultural mosaic. 

It must also be recognized that the mere reversion to Bahasa Malaysia to refer to national language by itself will not promote togetherness, unity and integration among Malaysians particularly if Cabinet Ministers continue to be narrow-minded and lack broad nationalist and even globalist outlook. 

Malaysia is marking 50th anniversary of nationhood since Independence in 1957. Apart from restoration of Bahasa Malaysia to refer to the national language and the hundreds of millions of ringgit to be spent on fireworks, banquets and other forms of extravaganza, what bold and challenging initiatives have the Cabinet come up with to make the half-a-century of nationhood anniversary celebrations most meaningful in leapfrogging the country forwards in promoting togetherness, unity and integration among Malaysians? 

Recent events and developments involving top government leaders are not encouraging signs that the Cabinet has any real clue as to how to use the 50th Merdeka anniversary celebrations to make a quantum leap for the Malaysian nation-building process. 

Malaysia lacks a Cabinet with the broadmindedness, imagination, courage and globalist outlook to deal with grave problems and challenges facing the country, including: 

  • the unresolved Malay keris-wielding scandal by the Umno Youth leader and Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein in circumstances showing utter contempt for the sensitivities and rights of all Malaysians and  his arrogant and “childish” refusal to meet up with Dong Jiao Zong to discuss the National Education Blueprint 2006-2010 and Chinese education;

  • the continued decline in international competitiveness with no political will to create a national environment where excellence in education and towering Malaysians regardless of race or religion could surface and flourish;

  • the indifference to a new exodus of brain-drain with the best and brightest turning to emigration in their disappointment that they do not have an equal place under the Malaysian sun; and

  • the religious polarization and constitutional crisis stemming from a spate of cases, the latest being the Lina Joy case.

If Najib is serious about wanting to promote togetherness, unity and integration among Malaysians, these are some of the problems he must urgently get the Cabinet to address and resolve in conjunction with Malaysia’s 50th Merdeka anniversary.


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

Your e-mail:

Your name: 

Your friend's e-mail: 

Your friend's name: