Sunday, February 21, 2010

Be Firmed on Article 152

(Mingguan Malaysia, 21 February)
Dr. Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, Senior Lecturer, National Defence University Malaysia cum Secretary General of Islamic Chamber of Commerce Malaysia.

I rushed back to the capital on 15.2.2010 merely to attend the invitation from GAPENA, KALAM and PENA as panelist on the subject Malay Language Civilization Discourse in conjunction with The Language Fighting Day 152 in Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. Although it was a Chinese New Year holiday, guided by the principles which occurs when a clash between national interests with the interests of the race, then the national interest must be prioritized.

However, I was so disappointed because the number of participants who attended was fewer than 200 people, while the matter under discussion was a national policy issue. Where is the sensitivity in us as citizens in this beloved land of ours? The date 15.2 was chosen because in conjunction with the spirit of Article 152 of the federal constitution pertaining to the Malay Language (BM) as the national language. Strangely, why are we discussing something that had already been the national policy? Why was it not implemented since before?

I was so touched to participate in such forum, let alone to listen to the views of other panelists. The fact is BM was known as the language set forth in the constitution which has no authority in its own land. We are busy with other languages, especially English language (BI) compared with BM. The language was portrayed as not important. The question is, how can we expect others to respect our own BM if we are not serious to elevate BM to be the core in the building of a nation?

We are willing to spend large amounts of money up to billions of ringgit to empower BI, but to which extent similarly or more are being used to empower BM? We willingly spend to purchase computer equipments and all BI laboratories with sophisticated equipments for the purpose of teaching and learning of BI, but whether the same are provided for BM? At times it is difficult to blame the vernacular schools for their indifferent approaches toward BM, when we are not serious to provide the platform to enhance them in this unity language.

I do not think anyone would reject the importance of BI in facing the current modernization and globalization. It is foolish to reject the need to learn foreign languages because it is required by the religion. However do not be too enthusiastic with the foreign language until its own language trade places in its own land. Where had the slogan gone that language is the soul of a nation which used to be pinned in the heart?

Is BI a factor that will determine the progress of a country or to change our attitude? I observed that a number of the developed countries such as France, we will not be entertained if we are to speak English over there, however their country still progress. In Japan, the country was destroyed after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945; they continue to rise up with the spirit of being Japanese. Today, the Japanese remain as a world leader standing tall with the other developed countries. In other words, the spirit of loving the identity and language as the soul of a nation had uplifted their country. Similarly with other countries, they rise up with the molding on the belief in empowering the language as the soul of the nation in all aspects.

Sometimes I felt snubbed, why must I defend BM, after all it is not my mother tongue? Why should I face the condemnations and criticisms from my own race for merely defending the language of others? After consideration, I realized that in fact that the spirit to love the homeland and Islam over turned everything else to the extent of forgetting one's origins. I do not perceive this as a sin as labeled by the ultra kiasu.

If BI is the cause for the weakness in our children, then do a large-scale change in the way of teaching and learning in terms of domains, cognitive, psychomotor, and various aspects of the pedagogy, rather than changing the basic education system itself. Sometimes I feel weird that we were brave to transform the national education system that involve the future of the Malay race, but why are we not brave enough to touch or change the structure of the vernacular schools, when we have the power to do so based on Article 152 and Education Act 1996? We can't even be firmed in reaching to the level of standardizing and increasing the school curriculum in BM. In the end, the national education system is victimized.

I was very impressed with the presence of a professor from Korea in the discourse, who is fluent in the Malay Language. He suggested that Jawi writings also be strengthened in an effort to elevate BM. He said BM and Jawi are very closely related and cannot be separated. Are we not ashamed and snubbed with these types of views? Similarly, the views provided by Dr. S. Nathesan Sellapan who was also in the discourse as a panelist. He said the struggle to empower BM is the responsibility of all Malaysians, and not just the Malays only. This means, the non-Malays must also bear the same responsibility as being done by the Malays.

The question is how it can happen when the Malays themselves are not in unison on the position of its own language. Just look, when the government decided to restore the teachings of science and mathematics in BM, how many Malay NGOs came forward to go against the decision? As a result, others took advantages. We became the losers.

Why are we not acting like the non-Malay NGOs? When the question to defend their mother tongue language and schools, there is no such word as NO, in unison they united their hearts. If there is news or any action to change the features of their schools, such as additional time and standardizing the BM syllabus, they are in unison to object. The government decision cannot even change their stance. Eventually the government had to bow down to their pressure and stance. Whether it is appropriate or not, we should think by ourselves? Why can't the Muslims have this attitude?

At least, we should practice the culture of referring to the specialist, as done in the developed countries. For example, if we are ill, then refer to the medical doctor, and not referring to the doctor of philosophy. Similarly, it should be the practice in the field of language. Let the language experts solve the problems if there is a language flaw or lacking in terms of implementation. Instead, the non-specialist were the ones busy trying to change something that are outside their expertise, without referring to the specialists. Finally, the decision made did not achieve its objective and eventually bit by bits the civilization of the nation diminishes.

Just look at the signage, names of shops and housing estates, do they reflect the Article 152? Are those in the City Planning Department sensitive to this belief? This does not include facility such as suraus which are not available, even there is, it is located in the parking areas that is repulsive. Sometimes I am impressed when the west could understand us better than we ourselves. We look at the suraus in Carrefour and Tesco which are placed in strategic places, beautiful and clean.

Are we not the one who approved this building realized this reality. We want to see and hear many names such as Teratai Park, melor etc., instead of Ki Park, Monte Kiara, Country Height and other types of Height. The western names are considered to have standards, therefore we rush to buy houses in that area and names with BM are considered substandards. Are these names reflecting the spirit of 1Malaysia and Article 152? This does not include the dominance of foreign cultures that have drowned the local music, songs, customs, arts and cultures. If insignificant issues are not addressed, how could issues of significant are confined? I am hopeful that 1Malaysia will uphold the beliefs of being Malaysians.

Regardless, top-down approach is the most effective in determining the direction of a country, rather than bottom-up. Sometimes I was very impressed with the few NGOs that enthusiastically fight for the belief and identity of the country race, but do they get the support and encourage from every parties? I am afraid it is only self gratification. Do not be too political involved to the extent of putting aside the importance of religion, race and country. If that's the case, I would be very concerned that we will be extinct. Do not just be political when having the power or governing for one term or five years. When not selected again, we became quiet. The struggle of the language as the soul of the nation is a lifetime struggle rather than action-oriented.

Consequently, others took advantage. When others dominate, we accuse them, while the fault lies with ourselves for being negligent and not firm. Where will the Malays and Muslims go if they continue to lose their power? Will my prediction be true that the Malay civilizations will become extinct in its own land if they do not have anymore confidence on themselves but to trust the strength of others? While we know that Allah provides the strength to every creature created, it is imperative for the creature to be grateful and not obnoxiously ungrateful.

Sometimes I was puzzled to see that we are so disturbed on the extinction of the species of plants or animals and human rights, but we do not pay attention to the extinction of the language and culture of the nation. Let alone among us with a fixed mind who do not want to be left behind with people who are considered advanced. In the name of globalization, they are easily agreeable, not only providing the way to end the historical journey of the language as the soul of a nation, but also contribute in accelerating the process. In fact, they should be wiser by approaching together with the environmental groups and human rights activist.

Most of us in the third world considered globalization as a new phenomenon caused by the explosion of information technology or the influence of the West, and therefore willing to change such as using BI in every aspect. We must remember, although about 50 percent of Europeans know English language well, however they do not leave out their mother tongue language in the education system of science and mathematics. European leaders such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia and others, continue to use their mother tongue in official communications. In the United Kingdom itself, the language of Wales and Scotland, was based on indigenous language regions - Celtic, used in their daily life and education system at the kindergarten and school. They began to realize on how severe is the effect on the fate of the language being squeezed by the policy of using the United Kingdom English all this while.

Ironically, developed countries with their main language as United States and United Kingdom, are encouraging their people to master other languages such as Arabic, Chinese, and even BM itself, and to learn the psychic of these nation for economic and political purposes. The education policy in this country allows education in its own culture form starting at the kindergarten level and primary school. It can been said that almost all computer and telecommunication companies of today such as Microsoft, are actively translating every product or products in various languages in the world on the grounds of globalization.

The most saddening part today is that our reaction towards the globalization and advancement of information technology are different from the reaction of many leaders of other countries (including developed countries) which are towards an increasingly multi-cultural and pushing forward their own culture. Malaysia is increasingly lowering its own culture and moving towards a more monolithic-western culture. Let us not become Singapore which regretted on their actions for being too entwined with BI until marginalized their mother tongue language and they are now known as Chinese banana.

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