‘Zong li’ (总理) more suitable Mandarin translation for ‘premier’, not ‘zong du’ (总督) says federation

Sarawak Legislative Assembly Complex (file photo)

KUCHING, March 2: The Mandarin translation for ‘premier’ as the head of the Sarawak government’s new designation should be ‘zong li’ (总理) not ‘zong du’(总督).

This is the view of the Federation of Chinese Associations Sarawak which asserted that the use of ‘premier’ or ‘zong li’ to designate the chief executive of a state or State government is equivalent to what is practised by Canada and Australia where within their governmental administrative systems, the leader of the federation is designated as ‘prime minister’, and the chief executive of a state or State is addressed as ‘premier’.

The federation expressed its stand in a statement released in response to Datuk Wu Heng Can, chairman of the Malaysian Chinese Language Standardization Council and chairman of the translation unit who released a press statement pointing out that the correct translation for ‘premier’ is ‘zong du’ or ‘governor’.

The federation pointed out that according to official documents during the British colonial era, the term ‘zong du’ actually refers to ‘governor’, not ‘premier’.

Thus, to use ‘zong du’ as the equivalent translation for the title ‘premier’ will not only cause confusion in Chinese translation, it bears connotation of a colonial rule.

“Whatever Sarawak is doing now — to replace the designation of ‘chief minister’ with the title ‘premier’ where the leader of the federation is addressed as ‘prime minister’ and the leaders of the States under prime minister is designated as ‘premier’ is correct and perfectly reasonable.

“ ‘Premier’ would be a more suitable term than ‘zong du’ or ‘governor’ which suggests an authority of a colonial rule,” said the federation.

The federation also opined that Goh’s argument that the use of the word ‘zong li’ may reflect a disrespect for Malaysia’s constitutional monarchy may be an overstatement where the basis of argument is not well stated.

Furthermore, to call the chief executive of Sarawak ‘premier’ does not reflect the narrative of ‘a nation within a nation’ as what it entails is that ‘there is a region within a nation’ which is in line with the spirit of the founding treaty of Malaysia Agreement 1963, the federation added.

“The translation unit of the Malaysian Chinese Language Standardization Council must conduct in-depth discussions and research especially on the political and social background of Sarawak when discussing related issues, so as to have a deeper understanding of the history of Sarawak.

“We believe that the new designation of ‘premier’ or ‘zong li’ in Chinese translation to denote the Sarawak chief executive in Chinese is appropriate and befitting,” said the federation. — DayakDaily