Ahmad Rejal Arbee & Shallow Thinking

Khoo Kay Peng

Ex-editor Ahmad Rejal Arbee wrote in Umno-controlled Berita Harian today that after 53 years of independence, non-Malays should be proud of the national language if they were loyal citizens. “They get so sensitive when their patriotism is doubted but make no effort to use and understand Malay,” the former Berita Harian group editor said.

“What loyalty is there if they do not try to learn and use their own national language?” he wrote, adding that what was learnt in Chinese vernacular schools was only to pass exams.

Ahmad Rejal said that there were non-Malays that did not care about and deliberately “belittled Malay” despite calling Malaysia their country.

Ahmad Rejal is naive to suggest that non-Malays are not patriotic because they do not use the Malay language in their daily conversation. For a record, Ahmad should be refrained from making a sweeping statement. Many non-Malays do speak fluently in the Malay language and took great interest in understanding the Malay culture. In fact, some Chinese dialects such as the Penang Hokkien had incorporated many Malay words e.g. tuala, batu, kuih, etc.

I studied both the Malay literature and Malay language at the pre-university level and did remarkably well in both subjects. Will I be regarded as being more patriotic and enjoy better privileges from the UMNO-led government? To people like Ahmad Rejal, I am still a Chinese and a non-Bumiputera. It is also a fact that not many Malays speak the Chinese language or understand our culture. To forge a better cultural understanding, the effort must be reciprocated. How much does Ahmad understand the non-Malay culture?

It is also the duty of the Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka to expand the use of the Malay language. The language must be developed to facilitate acquisition of knowledge and skills. How many educational books are being written or translated in Malay?

The Malay language too had evolved and is still evolving. It has absorbed many English words into the language e.g. diskusi, institusi, kasyer, polis, eksploitasi, ekspres and thousands of other words and terms. Ahmad should take note of this phenomenon we called “pencemaran bahasa” or pollution. Replacing the original Malay words with these English terms will ultimately spell an end of the language and create a ‘rojak’ language.

Why blame the non-Malays when there are far greater threats to the Malay language? Are the Malays faring any better in the language in exams since Ahmad said that non-Malays are only interested in passing exams. You cannot deny that it takes a certain level of proficiency of the language to pass exams and it is the only formal yardstick to measure mastery of a language.