Former Sabah CM: Language policy should synchronised with Bornean states

THE ongoing debate over the use of language in official correspondence has taken a new turn as former Sabah minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak emphasised the need for coordination with the Sabah and Sarawak governments.

Salleh is of the opinion that policies requiring the use of Malay should ideally be synchronised with regional authorities to ensure smooth implementation for the common good.

Speaking at the 2023 SMK Pekan student awards ceremony in Kota Belud, Salleh acknowledged Malay as the national language but highlighted the undeniable importance of mastering English.

“There is no denying that Malay is the national language in Malaysia and we welcome this policy, but the importance of mastering English cannot be disputed.

“This is because English, as a global language, is widely used and needs to be mastered, especially by civil servants dealing with foreign countries and students who will explore the field of knowledge in the field of education and then apply it in the world of work.”

Moreover, this discussion came after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s recent directive urging local companies and universities to correspond with government agencies exclusively in Malay.

The Tambun MP underscored the constitutional commitment to uphold Malay as the national language, warning that non-compliant letters would be returned.

However, this directive faced resistance from Sarawak state authorities. Sarawak state secretary Datuk Abu Bakar Marzuki asserted the state’s stance, indicating that Sarawak would continue accepting official correspondence in English from local companies or public and private institutions.

Moreover, Sarawak has a history of divergent opinions with the federal government regarding language-related policies.

Last year, Sarawak Premier Abang Johari Openg reaffirmed the state’s commitment to using English alongside Malay in the civil service, opposing the national government’s push for a singular language approach.

His comments were in response to chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Zuki Ali’s May 24 statement, where he wanted the public services department (JPA) to look into action that could be taken against those who did not take instructions to strengthen the national language seriously. – Oct 26, 2023


Main photo credit: The Borneo Post

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