The usage of Bahasa Melayu should be at the forefront of any unifying activity and policy in Malaysia.
Prof Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong, while lauding the newly launched National Unity Policy and National Unity Blueprint 2021-2030, also hoped the powers-that-be ensure the policies announced will be implemented to meet its objectives.
The blueprint was launched virtually by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin this morning.
“When Malaysia gained independence in 1957, the national language was used as a unifying tool and was part of the education blueprint then,” said Teo, a principal research fellow at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies and Institute of Malay World and Civilisation.
“This has failed as today we have Malaysians who struggle to speak Bahasa Melayu. This is partly because of our schooling system which has allowed Mandarin and Tamil national schools.”
Teo said Malaysia should only have one schooling system but added getting rid of vernacular schools has become a political minefield.
Teo highlighted that emphasis must be placed on education.
“We can start building a more unified country by starting them from young.”
Teo said one reason for Malaysia’s failure to be truly united is that the country opted for integration as a means to unite its people instead of assimilation.
“Unlike other countries in Southeast Asia, Malaysia followed the path of integration where its people were allowed to be different but supposedly ‘united’ as one,” said Teo.
“That is why we still classify people as Malays, Chinese or Indians instead of just Malaysians. It is the same for the other races in the country.
“Look at Thailand and the Philippines. They are always Thai or Filipino first. Race is not important.
“Did you know former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos and former Thai prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck have Chinese ancestry? Not many know that as they are considered Filipino or Thai first.”
He added Singapore is similar to Malaysia in that when it separated to become an independent country in 1965, it also adopted integration, meaning the Chinese, Indians and Malays were allowed to live as different ethnic groups.
But when it came to education, it chose assimilation by having only one schooling system.
“They (Singaporeans) incorporated the vernacular part in the system as the mother tongue is a compulsory passing subject.
“They united the country using one language while allowing the people to be different.”
Singapore, however, has experienced racial tension over the years.
Teo lauded the policy and blueprint that were launched this morning, saying there were good for unity.
“In fact, Malaysia always had great policies but we are bad when it comes to the implementation,” said Teo.
“I hope it won’t be hangat-hangat tahi ayam (not doing something wholeheartedly) … we will see much excitement for the first two years only to quickly forget about the initiative. I hope this will not be the case with this new policy and blueprint.”