I found this newspaper clipping while spring cleaning last week. It’s a letter to a newspaper (probably NST), published in 2001.
I am really touched by the letter written by Gloria Benedict (BM and national unity, 16-31 July 2001). It jolted my memory to what transpired in the question and anser’s section of a seminar, which was delivered by two professors from Taiwan, who spoke on various issues.
In response to the pessimistic attitude of one of the speakers towards the civilization dialogue, as propounded by former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, in his book Asia Renaissance, one of the prominent researcher of Hua Zi (a local Chinese research center), Tang Ah Chai has a dissent view on that.
He enlightened the audience that the concept of “Malays”s according to Anwar Ibrahim is none other than embracing all people who consider Nusantara (Malays Archipelago) as their homeland. Moreover he also revealed that pursuant to a survey he did in few major cities in Malaysia during the uproar of Nanyang Siang Pao takeover by MCA, he discovered that only less than 5% of the Chine populate read Malay paper.
More interestingly a British graduate, Jong Hong, also a freelance writer, subsequently in reference to the survey’s result reprimanded the non-Malay youth’s negative attitude towards the Malay paper though their command of the language is beyond question.
Last year in an Annual General Meeting of a Chinese society, in which I am a member, I had presented a proposal to urge the members to accept Bahasa Malaysia (BM) as the alternative language of the society to replace the usage of English in accounts, documents, banners etc, apart from the Chinese language.
Again, in the middle of this year, I proposed to a Buddhist society’s youth section’s committee to organise some activities whereby the participants can use BM more often in conversation and public speaking to improve their mastery of the language. For example, organise program such as ‘Jejak Buddha’ (the trails of the Buddha).
In relation tot he program, I has succinctly enunciated to them that the Malays were once, and had been Buddhists even longer than they have been Muslims till today. There were many Buddhists kingdoms and communities has been build and many centers to propagate the teachings of Buddha growth like mushroom throughout the history of the Nusantara. Hence, the Buddhists need not go so far to India to trace the trails of Buddha.
Here, in the Malay Peninsular we have many Buddhist relics (inlcuding the Malay language itself) and the Malay Buddhists’ descendants, who now professed Islam and are now scattered at tall parts of the land. No reason why the younger generation of Buddhists, who are well-versed in BM , should not go round the Malay villages to visit, live together and interact with them in their traditional houses and the mosques.
I also reminded them that ‘Jejak Buddha’ is not an activity to convert the Muslims to the affront of the Malay community. The message of the Buddha is not to convert everyone in the world to Buddhism. As manifested in the life of the Buddha, Buddha merely wanted to share with people of His understandings of the Truth. He was also well prepared to listen to other’s feelings and opinions. In a simple word, it was akin the contemporary’ interfaith dialogue’, for the happiness and the benefit of the mankind.
Unfortunately, the had shown their lukewarm response to my said proposals. now question arises. Do we all, regardless of our ethnic origins, who claim to fight for equality and justice, love our national language — BM?
It doesn’t matter whether you give an affirmative answer to that question or not. One undeniable fact is that given the wide spread of the usage of BMin the bigger segments of the populace, English can never and will not be thee key to open the door of a civil society in Malaysia. Malaysiakni please take note.
No doubt English is a key to knowledge and the sophisticated information. However, in building up a civil society ranging from villages to cities, the gap between the rural and the urban populace should not be further enlarged by the hegemony of the English language. BM certainly is one of the prime movers to achieve this end.
BM can spread the message as to the essentially of a civil society to all parts of Malaysia more effectively and vigorously. So please listen, speak and read more BM to master the language as a key to open the door of a civil society in Malaysia.