I AGREE with Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim that even though English is not the official language of the country, there is need to master the former.
I also agree that the both the Malay and English languages must be mastered in the larger interests of the progress of the nation as a whole.
Whether one likes the English language or not, it is the language of science and technology and international communication. Malaysians who aspire to take careers in science and technology must master the English language.
While Anwar is right on the need to master the English language, it was him a few weeks ago who asked government departments to reject letters written in languages other than Malay.
This gung-ho nationalistic stand was at odds with some public universities where English was the medium of instruction and in schools where there is an option to learn science and mathematics in the English language.
Although English is not the second official language in the de jure sense, it has a de facto status in the country.
In an only a matter of few weeks, Anwar without realising what he might have said the Malay only policy in the government departments, has come out to defend the importance of English language and the need to master it.
Tailoring to audience
What can I say about the contradictory stand of Anwar on the question of language policy? For Anwar to direct government departments to reject letters in other languages including English and at same time encouraging the mastery of the English language is no contradiction to him.
It is the way he deals with different kind of audience in the country and abroad. In a completely a Malay/Muslim audience he is nationalist or Islamist par excellence. In the Arab circles, he is the champion of the Palestinian cause including the support for Hamas.
Before a non-Malay audience, he is man for all seasons. He speaks the language they are comfortable with. By throwing in some references to ancient scripts, he seeks to endear himself to them, Indians or Chinese.
He imparts messages that that the audience prefers. In the international arena, he speaks of affirmative action immaterial of ethnicity or religion but in Malaysia he will defend the quota system for the Malays immaterial of their consequences.
For him, the removal of the quota system of entry into public universities will breach the social contract that he has failed to explain to date.
Moreover, he warned the young non-Malay student that removal of the quota system would give rise to the worst form of government than the present one. As though, the present Madani government is any better than the last governments or superior to the future emerging ones.
The problem with Anwar is that he thinks that whatever he says people might just love him. But he doesn’t realise that his audience might compare notes to regretfully realise that Anwar speaks to his audience rather than focus on the substance of his delivery.
This perhaps is one of the main reasons why the popularity of Anwar as the PM has plummeted in the last one year or so. He is the like the French Emperor Louis Bonaparte who projected the idea he was friend of all classes in the society.
In the end, he turned out to be the captive emperor of the burgeoning capitalist class. – Nov 25, 2023
Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy was the former DAP state assemblyman for Perai. He was also the former deputy chief minister II of Penang.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main pic credit: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Facebook