Dr M speaks his mind

By Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

Age has not made him any more mellow. Outspoken former prime minister Tun Dr Manathir Mohamad, who turned 84 today, was his usual forthright self in a no-holds barred question-and-answer session here after giving a keynote address at the closed-door forum on the position of Malays and the royal institution from the perspective of 1 Malaysia.

In good spirits, he made light and tongue-in-cheek comments on many issues that are causing a stir among the multiracial, multi-religious Malaysians.

Q: What’s your birthday wish?

A: My birthday wish is very big. It’s not achievable within my lifetime. It is to see a Malaysia where people think they are Malaysians and are not linked to anywhere else.

Q: What was talked about inside the hall?

A: I think the talks were actually a reaction to the situation now, where Malays are accused of being obstacles to the growth of the national economy, obstacles to national unity, obstacles to everything. They feel dissatisfied about these accusations so they spoke at length about what is happening to the country. I feel this is a good development because they have to know the real situation in the country today.

Q: You have been criticising Najib’s English language policy, the move to revert to Malay. Do you think he has been disregarding the people’s wishes or taken the wrong steps?

A: Yes, yes. I’ve said this so many times before. This policy was implemented during the last year I was prime minister and I had very definite reasons, supported by the supreme council of Umno, as to why we should teach science and math in English.

It is not about trying to learn English, it’s not about trying to learn Malay. It’s simply just an acknowledgement of the fact that today’s knowledge comes to us in the English language. Just as in the past, Arabs, when they became Muslims, studied Greek in order to acquire the knowledge of the Greeks and subsequently the Europeans from the dark ages studied Arabic in order to acquire the knowledge of the Arabs.

Today, the knowledge is with people who write in English. And for that reason, we want to learn English to acquire the knowledge, not just to learn English.

Science has got a special language, English, for itself. That’s why it’s very important that we use English in order to study science and math.