No penalty: Abang Johari assures Sarawak civil servants they can use English language

Abang Johari (seated fifth left) with other dignitaries and Sarawak Foundation staff pose for a group photo at the event. Photo: Sarawak Public Communications Unit (Ukas)

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By Nur Ashikin Louis

KUCHING, June 8: Can you penalise a young man selling burgers just because he was using “roti burger” instead of another bread with a name in Bahasa Malaysia?

Such was the satirical question posed by Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg in referring to a proposal for punitive action to enforce the use of Bahasa Malaysia in the civil service.

He pointed out that language is a ‘living’ thing where people have come to accept certain English terms into Bahasa Malaysia.

Using the term “Premier” for example, Abang Johari took a jab at certain quarters who expressed worry that the amendment to the designation of head of State government would resulted in two prime ministers co-existing in Malaysia.

“If you go to Indonesia, they use the term ‘Presiden’ (originated from the English word for president).

“The same applies to the term ‘Premier’ because we do not have a Bahasa Malaysia word for that,” he said when officiating at Sarawak Foundation’s 50th Anniversary event at Pullman Hotel last night (June 7).

He also mentioned the ‘Premier’ title amendment was necessary to differentiate the status of Sarawak which is not equal to states like Melaka or Penang, but equal to the whole of Malaya.

“In the Constitution of Sarawak, we have two official languages. While we prioritise Bahasa Malaysia, we also prioritise English. That is Sarawak’s stand and that is our policy.

“Whether you like it or not, to acquire new technology and knowledge, you must know English in order to understand what is going on throughout the world,” Abang Johari stated.

In addition, he gave reassurance that there will be no penalties for Sarawak civil servants for using the English language.

“However, for federal civil servants, I don’t know lah. This is because your ‘master’ is different. As long as I am your master, you can use English,” he emphasised.

On May 24, Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali proposed for the Public Service Department (JPA) to consider punitive measures to enforce the use of Bahasa Malaysia in the civil service.

He said such punitive action was not intended to intimidate but to ensure that Bahasa Malaysia as the national language was not used arbitrarily. — DayakDaily