BM on world stage, Tuan Ibrahim shows it’s not about language but confidence

Just as his name was called, Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man walked up confidently onto the stage.

Facing an international audience at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland yesterday, the Environment and Water Minister spoke for close to four minutes – in Bahasa Melayu.

Although he came with a prepared speech, he was confident and comfortable throughout his address. He informed the assembled gallery of some of the measures Malaysia would take to address climate change. They included:

  • the introduction of carbon pricing in phases.
  • ensuring that government vehicles would no longer have internal combustion engines by 2030.
  • preserving at least 50 per cent of the nation’s forests as announced at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992.

It remains unclear if Tuan Ibrahim is indeed knowledgeable about the environment, or if he truly appreciated what he was reading, or if Malaysia would achieve its aspirations in addressing climate change. He should have had more eye contact with the audience, instead of looking at his prepared text.

But there was no hesitation, no missed cadence, no hint of uncertainty in his voice, or body language. The minister somewhat did justice to the national language on the global stage.

Some had earlier suggested that Tuan Ibrahim had shied away from attending the event because he was “uncomfortable” speaking in English.

Some of our ministers struggle with the English language, often leaving us cringing, no thanks to their poor pronunciation, diction, and their lack of confidence. That’s a performance we want to avoid.

But we also have leaders who are eloquent in the English language.

But this isn’t a debate about language. It’s about confidence.

Tuan Ibrahim’s effort reminded many of Faiz Subri, who gave his acceptance speech in English after receiving the FIFA Puskas Award in Zurich, in 2017.

He struggled in expressing himself in the language, and many wished he had spoken in Bahasa Melayu instead. In fact, he should have been advised to speak in the national language, for even big names like football stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, often spoke in their mother tongues.

The Japanese and French too, are proud of their language, as evident at international conferences.

Tuan Ibrahim has clearly won some new fans with his latest endeavour. That brief stint on the world stage somewhat deflected some of the attacks the Pas deputy president had received in recent times.

The moral of this story: It is okay to speak in Bahasa Melayu or English, as long as the presenter is able to put up a confident front in the eyes of the world.