DAP leader: Official statements in Mandarin fine, legally

Abdul Aziz Isa. Picture source: Abdul Aziz's Facebook page

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KUCHING, June 27: Democratic Action Party (DAP) Socialist Youth (DAPSY) Sarawak publicity secretary Abdul Aziz Isa opines that issuing a translated press release in Mandarin neither violates Article 152 of the Federal Constitution nor the National Language Act (NLA) 1963/67 nor is disrespecting the Malay language.

He believed it was actually reflective of the new government’s recognition of Malaysia’s plural society.

In a statement yesterday, he pointed out that the trilingual press release was issued to ensure that all Malaysians and concerned foreigners would be able to understand Putrajaya’s policy on the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) with no ambiguity.

“The Finance Minister’s press release in Mandarin was meant for the Chinese media because it would help to prevent the information from being lost in translation. In order to avoid the message to be misinterpreted by the Chinese media, the statement was translated in Mandarin by the ministry itself.

“Therefore, I strongly agree with the Finance Minister (Lim Guan Eng) when he stated that the new Malaysia is an inclusive, respectful and diverse county,” said Abdul Aziz, adding that while safeguarding the status of Malay as an official language, there was also need to master the use of other languages in order to increase the country’s competitiveness.

He was responding to criticisms of Lim by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) Youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and United Malays National Organisation (Umno) presidential candidate Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar for issuing several ministerial statements in Mandarin.

Syed Saddiq said Section 2 of the National Language Act stated that the national language should be used as the official language. He also pointed out this was consistent with Article 152 (1) of the Federal Constitution, which states that Bahasa Melayu is the national language.

Khairy also said it was unacceptable for Lim to issue official statements in Mandarin.

Abdul Aziz said Syed Saddiq and Khairy appeared not to understand the clear intention of Lim.

“Since this petty issue has entered into legal arguments, I would like to ask these two lawmakers how far they really understand Article 152 of the Federal Constitution and Section 2 of NLA 1963/67.”

Abdul Aziz agreed that Article 152(1) of the Federal Constitution clearly provided that the national language shall be the Malay language and shall be used for all “official purposes”.

Despite so, he said there were several permissible exceptions to the exclusive use of the Malay language in administration, communication and instruction.

“However, along with such nationalistic provisions, the constitution and laws embrace a linguistic diversity that is part of our rainbow-hued, federal nation,” he said.

He reminded Syed Saddiq and Khairy of the case of Mohammad Syawwaal Mohammad Nizar (2010).

“This landmark case clarified that it is not unconstitutional to teach science and mathematics in English because under Section 17 of the Education Act 1996, Malay is the main but not the sole medium of instruction. Did they read this case?”

Abdul Aziz said under Article 152(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution, the federal and state governments had the right to preserve and sustain the use and study of the language of any other community.

He believed that this provision “impliedly” meant that Chinese and Tamil languages could be used in the federal and state governments’ statements.

“I think Syed Saddiq and Khairy is making this petty issue into a mountain out of a molehill by turning this issue into a ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ issue just to get cheap publicity for their political mileage.”

He said the then Barisan Nasional (BN) government had promoted the ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ or ‘Malay Supremacy’ agenda rather than ‘Ketuanan Rakyat’ or ‘People’ Supremacy’.

“As a result, this ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ agenda was inherited by the young generation leaders like Syed Saddiq and Khairy. Because of this, they failed to recognised minority rights like the use of other languages as stipulated under Article 152(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution.”

Besides urging Syed Saddiq and Khairy to understand the laws and Federal Constitution and to stop turning this issue into a racial one, Abdul Aziz appealed to them to bury the hatchet towards non-Malays and to start talking about uniting and building this nation.

“And if you don’t know how to read Mandarin, please read the official statement in Malay. Don’t make it so difficult.

“The rakyat have enough of these nonsensical and superstitious arguments on race, religion and language in this country. We live in a modern age, not monolithic age,” he emphasised. — DayakDaily