PETALING JAYA: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has refuted claims that he has failed to uphold Bahasa Malaysia as the official language, saying his “occasional” use of Mandarin has been twisted out of context.
He said official statements would be made in Malay and translated to English for the international media, and only translated to Mandarin once in a while if there was a need.
He said the Mandarin version would be sent to the Chinese press or uploaded on social media, and would not be used on the ministry’s web portal.
Lim said a statement he issued in Mandarin on June 24 did not carry the ministry’s official letterhead.
Lim, who is DAP secretary-general, was accused of undermining the national language after he had issued the ministerial statement written only in Mandarin.
“The allegation that Mandarin has replaced Bahasa Malaysia as the official language of the finance ministry is not true, and this can be proven by the ministry’s official website,” he said.
“The finance ministry has always prioritised the use of Bahasa Malaysia as the language medium,” he said in a statement today.
“I wish to emphasise that all statements in my official media communiques under the ministry are indeed in Bahasa Malaysia and only translated to other languages if there is a need,” he said.
He said the stand was based on Article 152 of the Federal Constitution that the national language shall be Bahasa Malaysia
“However, I will use other languages in my social media account and also Mandarin in my communication with the Chinese press,” he said, adding that this would especially be for matters involving technical terms.
Lim said he did not understand why the issue had been “twisted” to such an extent that he was accused of having replaced the official language with Mandarin.
In another statement earlier today, Lim had said using the language was a reflection of the current government’s recognition of multilingualism and globalisation.
“Under the Federal Constitution, no one is prevented from speaking, teaching, or learning other languages. In the spirit of the constitution, what is wrong with issuing a translated press release in Chinese or other languages?” asked Lim.
Adding that his critics were making “racist accusations”, he said he would not bow to them.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said this evening that Lim had made a mistake.
“He made a mistake. It’s a minor one that I do not wish to make an issue of. It was an accident. Sometimes people make a mistake.”