Utusan Malaysia and 1Malaysia

By Wong Chin Huat (The Nut Graph)

IF newspapers could be judged by their titles like books by their covers, most of the major Chinese-language newspapers in Malaysia would be guilty of not being "national" in character.

Some of their names simply refer to a wider region like Oriental Daily (the East) and Nanyang Press (Southeast Asia, or literally the South Ocean). Some others point to their institutional origins like the Sin Chew Jit Poh (Singapore) or China Press and Kwong Wah Jit Poh (China). Then you have those that theoretically serve only a state or even just a city, like Berita Petang Sarawak or See Hua Daily (Sibu).

Unfortunately, the names of the English-language newspapers are not much better. Some are both colonial and regional like the New Straits Times (referring to the Straits settlements) and Borneo Post. Some are parochial like the defunct Sarawak Tribune and New Sabah Times. And the Malay Mail's name is mono-ethnic. Dreadfully, some — like theSun and The Star — are not even loyal to planet Earth.

There are guilty parties to be found in the Malay-language and Tamil-language press too, like Utusan Sarawak and Tamil Nesan.

So, if the name of the paper is a legitimate measure of its "national" character, the champion of "national newspapers" should be Utusan Malaysia (i.e. the Malaysian Tribune), Malaysia Nanban (Friends of Malaysia) and the defunct Sarawak-based Chinese-language Malaysia Daily.

Pic of honey
(Pic by nksz / sxc.hu)
But if a name is not a good gauge of "national" character, would language be better? Would using a particular language make a paper's contents more "national"? While "poison" in one language cannot be translated into "honey" in another, would a particular language drive us to talk more about honey than poison?

                          (Source: fpicn.org)
The latest attack on the Chinese-language dailies in Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian in the lead-up to Independence Day is therefore timely. These attacks give us the opportunity to examine a common argument — that cultural diversity is a threat to nation-building. Meanwhile, the radio stations flood our eardrums with those trilingual 1Malaysia anthems — I swear I do not hear Tamil, Dayak or Kadazan-Dusun-Murut lyrics within these songs.

The Oneness fetish

For many (or so we have been taught in official history and civic education), Malaysia would have been a united country if only we had one type of school, newspapers in one language, multiethnic associations, and perhaps inter-racial marriages. That's what I would call the worship or fetishism of oneness.

To be consistent, we would have to also lament the tragedy of the European Union, India, Switzerland and Canada respectively having 23, 17, four, and two official languages.

We should cheer for the forced cultural assimilation of the Malays — officially only recognised as Thai Muslims — in Thailand, and the Rohingya in Burma, even though such assimilation has produced insurgencies and refugees.

We should condemn the divisive roles of the Muslim Council of Britain or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which hinder the shaping of a single British and American identity.

Finally, we must hail the Anglicised Singapore, and the staunchly secular France and Turkey as models in nation-building.

Now, I am not sure what percentage of Malaysians can sign up to endorse all these positions. To push this logic further, the entire world would be much more peaceful and harmonious if everyone were to speak one common language and profess one common religion. We can then call it 1PlanetEarth. Any takers?

Read more at: http://www.thenutgraph.com/utusan-malaysia-and-1malaysia