Chong wants official Bahasa Malaysia translation for title of “Premier”

Tiong (left) exchanging words with Chong over the Bahasa Malaysia equivalent of the title "premier" at DUN this morning (Feb 15, 2022).

By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Feb 15: Padungan assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen (Pakatan Harapan-Democratic Action Party) asserts that an official Bahasa Malaysia translation for the title of “Premier” must be made available to avoid confusion.

This, he said, can be done through Sarawak Public Communications Unit (Ukas), the official information dissemination arm of the Sarawak government, to avoid confusion among Sarawakians and also the media fraternity as two press bodies in Peninsular Malaysia have translated the term “Premier” as “Perdana Menteri”.

“For a matter that is so important as to change the title of ‘Chief Minister’ to ‘Premier’, don’t tell me Ukas or the official communication unit of the State hasn’t come out with a standardised official title in Bahasa Malaysia, bearing in mind that Bahasa Malaysia is one of the two official languages for Sarawak,” said Chong when debating the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2022 tabled by Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) here this morning.

At this junction, Batu Kitang assemblyman Lo Khere Chiang (Gabungan Parti Sarawak-Sarawak United Peoples’ Party) interrupted Chong to ask whether the latter wanted Sarawak to enjoy a better position as enshrined in Malaysia Agreement 1963.

“Do you want Sarawak to have a better status commendable as what we have achieved today—’Premier’—or do you want us to remain as ‘CM’?” Lo inquired.

In response, Chong said he did not understand Lo’s question.

“Mr Speaker, I don’t know what he is asking. Seriously, I don’t understand what he is asking. My question is what is the official title in BM on the word ‘Premier’, so as not to cause confusion among the people.

“Maybe just to share with the Member of Batu Kitang, when you raise a point of clarification, raise it in relation to the point that was spoken at that time, not suddenly go off tangent, asking something else off tangent,” said Chong.

While Chong looked set to continue with this argument, Dudong assemblyman Dato Sri Tiong King Sing (GPS-Progressive Democratic Party) sought clarification, for which Chong gave way.

“Do you agree that, today our Dewan is giving the suggestion for (the designation) ‘Chief Minister’ to be changed to ‘Premier’, is it good or not? You should come out with some suggestions what we should call ‘Premier’ (in Bahasa Malaysia). Just now, we mentioned, we used ‘Menteri Perdana’; do you agree?

“I think once you agree (with the use of ‘Menteri Perdana’ to denote ‘Premier’), Ukas in Sarawak then they can follow (the decision) of the august House to spell it out for everyone. Do you agree?” said Tiong.

To that, Chong who is the Sarawak DAP chief turned to Lo, and told Lo that Tiong’s way should be the way to seek clarification.

“That question from Dudong is a more relevant question on point of clarification. Learn from Dudong, although Dudong is a first-term (DUN representative) here.

“I take that question, Mr Speaker, but this is the first time that it has come to my notice that Ukas will only issue a statement or a position when I agree to that position. That is something that I have never known because what Dudong was suggesting is that, if I agree, then Ukas will come out with an official (Bahasa Malaysia) title to that (word) ‘Premier’.

“It should be the Chief Minister and the government of the day who decides what term to be used. It is not me who decides. Are you giving me that power to determine or decide what Ukas should say or should not say?” Chong asked.

At this stage, Tiong tried to seek clarification again and Chong gave way.

Tiong pointed out for the bill to change the designation of “Chief Minister” to “Premier” to pass, it would take a majority to agree, and not be left to Chong only.

At this point, Chong reiterated his question.

“What is the official term for ‘Premier’ in Bahasa Malaysia. I would like the honourable minister who tabled the bill to enlighten this Dewan, so as not to cause confusion. As to the question whether I support this bill, so far in relation to the change of title of ‘Chief Minister’ to ‘Premier’, I will come to that later.

“But I have noticed a very refined Dudong in the DUN as compare to the ‘kong kali kong’ (a catchphrase often used by Tiong which means ‘futile speech’, and which later became Tiong’s nickname) in Parliament. It is something interesting. Congratulations!” said Chong.

Chong reminded the august House that the word “Premier” is not found in the Federal Constitution although Sarawak DUN may change the term “Chief Minister” in its State Constitution to “Premier”. As such, if the Bill is passed, the change in designation may contradict with what is in the Federal Constitution.

He also reminded his peers that in yesterday’s swearing-in ceremony, the elected lawmakers had pledged to uphold both the Sarawak and Federal Constitutions.

At this junction, DUN Speaker Tan Sri Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar interjected.

Mohamad Asfia expressed reluctance to interrupt, but in view of Chong’s persistent pursuit in hairsplitting over the word “Premier”, he felt compelled to tell Chong that it was common for one language to borrow words from other languages, citing that even the title “Prime Minister” was derived from a Latin term.

“There is nothing wrong for one language borrowing from another, from Latin, Greek and from French. They all borrow from each other. There is no need for you to be persistent on it. Move on to another point,” the DUN Speaker told Chong.

Chong replied he has no issue with borrowing words from another language but there must be an official stance from the government on the official Bahasa Malaysia equivalent of the title “Premier”.

He argued that Sarawak’s unilateral change of the designation of “Chief Minister” to “Premier” in the Sarawak Constitution did not bring about additional power to the position but instead it will directly contradict the Federal Constitution. — DayakDaily