PETALING JAYA: A prominent Malaysian novelist has panned the proposed amendments to laws which would allow the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) to fine those who use Bahasa Malaysia incorrectly up to RM1,000.
Calling the move impossible, Faisal Tehrani said it also hindered the potential of the language.
Speaking to FMT, he said many people made so-called errors in the usage of Bahasa Malaysia, including ministers, politicians, lawyers and celebrities.
“For language, you need to let it flourish. Language evolves, it is changing as it is transforming.
“We keep changing our own terms,” he said, adding that some words were also “borrowed” from other languages.
“For example, people still don’t know how to use ‘swafoto’ (selfie).”
Faisal’s comments followed a report by Chinese daily Nanyang Siang Pau, which quoted a source as saying that DBP would be empowered to hand out the fines if the amendments to the National Language Act 1963 and Education Act 1996 are passed in Parliament.
DBP director-general Abdul Adzis Abas said the government had suggested empowering DBP to take action against the improper use of Bahasa Malaysia, including in online advertisements.
The move is reportedly to prevent contamination of the language and to educate the public on the proper use of the national language.
However, Faisal, a research fellow at the Institute of the Malay World and Civilization at University Kebangsaan Malaysia and whose actual name is Mohd Faizal Musa, and who has written many books and literary works, asked how the authorities intended to implement the fines.
“If it is to be imposed soon, we need details on how it will be done.
“We do not know how we will be fined if we use the language wrongly.”
Faisal said perhaps the authorities could fine those who used Bahasa Malaysia incorrectly in online advertisements or in signboards along highways.
“But to impose fines on ordinary people who post their Facebook status or any online status does not make sense to me.”
He also asked how the people were going to change the slang words used in colloquial Malay such as “amoi” and “gua”.
“The colloquial Malay language has been there for so long.
“It would be better if the government put more energy into preserving the languages of minorities, for example in Sabah and Sarawak.”
Meanwhile, Malaysian Book Publishers Association president Ishak Hamzah suggested that more campaigns on the importance of using Bahasa Malaysia properly be held, for a start.
“We might have seen many campaigns on the importance of the proper use of the Malay language, but people may have been ignorant of this.
“We can keep doing that until we have done enough, then only impose the penalties,” he said, adding that this should be done gradually and only after reminders were given.
Ishak also said imposing fines would help sustain the quality of the national language.