A senior lawyer has asked for a clear distinction between Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Melayu following a suggestion that the language be used as a unifying tool.
Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos, the founder of Rapera – a movement that encourages thinking and compassion among citizens – added many do not speak the language properly as a result of usage and attitude.
“In fact, many fail to realise that many Malays themselves are not very proficient with Bahasa Malaysia because they take it for granted by speaking their own Malay dialect,” said Jahaberdeen.
“We need to make a clear distinction between Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Melayu. The Kelantanese or the Penang Malay dialect, for example, is not used as the basis for the national language.
“Politicians must be serious in promoting Bahasa Malaysia and also have to look into the words ‘Bahasa Melayu’ as used in the Federal Constitution.”
Article 152 of the constitution states that Bahasa Melayu is the official language. The position of Bahasa Melayu as the official language is cemented further through the National Language Act 1967.
Jahaberdeen was responding to Prof Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong’s view that Bahasa Melayu should be at the forefront of any unifying activity and policy in Malaysia, as reported by Twentytwo13 yesterday.
Teo, a principal research fellow at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies and Institute of Malay World and Civilisation, also said there were Malaysians who struggled to speak Bahasa Melayu partly due to the schooling system which has allowed Mandarin and Tamil national schools.
Teo said this after Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin launched the National Unity Policy and National Unity Blueprint 2021-2030 yesterday.
The academician added Malaysia should only have one schooling system but admitted getting rid of vernacular schools has become a political minefield.
Jahaberdeen, however, begs to differ.
“Teo is not totally correct in saying that many can’t speak the national language because of Tamil and Chinese schools,” Jahaberdeen said.
“Also, we must not forget religious schools instead of just singling out vernacular schools.”
Jahaberdeen also said the newly launched National Unity Blueprint seemed to lack the “necessary bite to give it a push.”