PERHAPS this is a wrong avenue to show profound affection for the national language. Or just a distraction from the bigger issue of a potential paralysis or breakdown in the nation’s healthcare system.
This is exactly the predicament faced by Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mutafa who was criticised by Bahasa Malaysia (BM) lovers when the good doctor (minister) took to the social media to express her profound gratitude to the Hartal Doktor Kontrak movement for clarifying that it was not involved in the proposed “Mogok Doktor Kontrak” strike.
“Thank you Hartal Doktor Kontrak for your understanding and patience on this matter. I believe together, we can ensure transformation of our nation’s healthcare services,” she penned in the Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia (Health Ministry) Facebook page along with a three-paragraph message card in English.
Interestingly, netizen Shamizi Mohamed started a thread suggesting that if the statement was issued by Dr Zaliha in her ministerial capacity, then it should use the national language.
Her opinion was seconded by Syidah Liya who agreed that by virtue of the statement been issued in Malaysia, then it should be in the national language.
“If we are in a meeting abroad that requires us to speak English, it’s okay. It depends on the situation. But given that it was issued in Malaysia and it was moreover an official statement, it should be in BM,” asserted the netizen.
Mohd Azahar Dzahari even ‘pleaded’ with Dr Zaliha by reminding her that BM is “the official language in government affairs”.
“If it is not the Malays who are responsible for improving the standard of their language, who else?” he justified.
“Please control the use of nicotine vapes immediately. Use the power that the people have given you to take care of the people’s health, not by exposing young people to the dangers of nicotine vaping. Don’t create a society of addicts.”
Zainab Saad questioned why the minister’s statement which was addressed to medical officers/doctors who serve in the Health Ministry (MOH) – all of whom are regarded as civil servants – need to be in English.
“Aren’t all official matters pertaining to government affairs should use or prioritise the national language or BM?” she asked.
Kurosaki Sharmsul who is more nationalistic-minded brought up the fact that the position of BM as a national language is enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
“Just ignore comments which regard the press release as meant for the whole world to see … such lame excuses. I’m with you … Don’t take the Malays as weaklings.”
Fortunately, there are some Good Samaritan among the netizens who showed up to clear the air over the ‘misplaced loyalty’ issue.
“Do you know that doctors use English in their referral letters? It is not wrong if she (Dr Zaliha) wants to use BM for she might be afraid that the understanding of BM among the contract doctors’ is less primarily because some studied abroad,” suggested Noor Hajar Abd Aziz.
Kallimah Pasupathi reckoned that this is not about not wanting to use the national language but “in wanting to ensure that the message reaches out to the whole world”. “If we use the national language, only we ourselves understand,” she noted.
Perhaps Rethinavel Thilagaraju summed up best the national language polemic:
“Language is not a problem. All the medical terms are in English. Names of medicine are defined in the English language. Language is not the issue here. The issue now is our new government has to take into account the dissatisfaction of our contract doctors and to find a solution for improvement which itself is a very professional response”. — April 5, 2023