Awang Sariyan, the former director-general of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, in a recent protest outside Masjid Putra called for Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng to be charged with sedition for issuing an official ministry statement in Mandarin.
Former Dewan Rakyat speaker Abu Zahar Ujang, former inspector-general of police Hanif Omar, former managing director of Malaysia Airlines Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman, and Malay Consultative Council secretary-general Hasan Mad, were some of the other prominent people who joined the protest.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad had defended Lim in the faux pas and said it was a minor mistake.
“I think he issued the statement in three languages, but for the Chinese audience he issued a statement in Chinese. I don’t want to make it an issue. Sometimes, we make mistakes,” Mahathir said.
However, Awang said Lim had challenged the fundamental tenets underpinning the formation of the nation.
“I regard issuing a statement in Mandarin as an attempt to disrupt the elements of nationhood. This is very dangerous,” he said.
In response to the controversy, Lim said he accepted the criticism and would in the future issue official statements in Malay with translations into other languages where necessary.
The concessions of Mahathir and Lim should be enough, but apparently not for everyone.
Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. Don’t these people have anything better to do, like play golf or spend time with their grandchildren? These kinds of protests should be left to younger people like Red Shirts leader Jamal Yunos.
It is disturbing to note that people who previously held high positions in government would stoop so low and display the Umno-era mentality in chastising a minister over a small faux pas. It would be better for them to spend their time and energy raising funds for Tabung Harapan instead of joining street protests.
Malays love to make mountains out of molehills. They protest against the appointment of a Chinese finance minister and an Indian attorney-general. They complain at every opportunity – but when it comes to corruption in 1MDB, Felda, the sports ministry, etc, they remain silent.
When Education Minister Maszlee Malik offered 1,000 special places for outstanding Chinese SPM students from the B40 lower income group to the 2018/2019 session matriculation programme, some Malays on social media said it was because his mother is Chinese.
Such comments are remnants of the previous Umno mentality. Statements with racial overtones are still coming from people who do not realise that the country has moved on. They are stuck in their own time zone, preaching hatred and division.
The whole world now holds Malaysia as a shining example of democracy. Don’t lose what we fought for in GE14 – build on it and show your maturity.
My advice to these critics: Get a hobby and give to charity. You are too old to start street protests; you should act your age. Mahathir loves woodturning; Siti Hasmah plays the violin and piano. We should all do something useful in the twilight years of our lives. Like Mahathir, please come out and save the country.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.