PETALING JAYA: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng today invoked the Federal Constitution in defending his use of Mandarin in his ministry’s official statements, after he was accused by opposition supporters of undermining Bahasa Melayu as the national language.
In a statement issued in Mandarin, the DAP secretary-general 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”, Lim said he would not bow to them.
“The statement of the finance minister will continue to be published in Malay and English,” he said, adding that Chinese translations would be included where necessary.
He also said he hoped other high ranking officials would follow suit.
“The new Malaysia is an inclusive, respectful and diverse country. While safeguarding the status of Malay as an official language, we also need to master the use of other languages in order to increase our competitiveness.”
While some supported him, many on Facebook said the DAP leader had gone overboard.
“Your message is targeting Mandarin speakers. But you’re the minister of finance now, representing every citizen in this country. Everyone is watching, and those that don’t understand will feel insulted/left out. And people that don’t like you are just looking for a reason to hit you, every chance they get,” said Facebook user Lee Hann Min.
“We’re Malaysians, so for any statements, BM should be primary, followed by English.”
The view was also shared by none other than Ameer Ali Mydin, who owns the Mydin hypermarket chain.
“All statements when released in Malaysia should first be in Bahasa Melayu, then English, then any other language necessary.
“If you are in London then I presume you will release it in English first, then the translation can be Bahasa/Mandarin/French, etc. If you are in China, then at a press conference in China, release it in Mandarin first, then English,” said the retail tycoon.