What is wrong if finance minister spoke in Mandarin?

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng was heavily criticised by some after he issued a Chinese translation for his ministerial statement.

By Koon Yew Yin

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng issued a trilingual press release on the bailout of the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) project on June 21.

The original release was in Bahasa Malaysia and was translated to English for the local and foreign media.

Since TRX and the ECRL (East Coast Rail Link) involve contractors and money from mainland China, it attracts its fair share of reporters from that country. It was translated into Chinese for their consumption as well as the local Chinese media.

Such translations are common practice in the private sector so as to avoid any misinterpretation and the need to send an accurate message to its intended audience.

Most of those who complained about the Chinese translation were Umno members and BN supporters. They are like crying babies. They have lost control of the government in the last general election. They just want to find fault. They want to make a mountain out of a molehill.

I was shocked to see they demanded action be taken against Lim under the Sedition Act. Among the 20-odd protesters were former inspector-general of police Hanif Omar, former Prisons director-general Zaman Khan and Abdul Aziz Rahman, the former Malaysia Airlines (MAS) head honcho. They gathered in front of the Putrajaya mosque on Friday and marched to the finance ministry.

China is our biggest trading partner

One must bear in mind that China’s population is more than 1.2 billion people and it is the second largest economy in the world. China is our biggest trade partner and the biggest buyer of our palm oil and we are the second largest palm oil producer in the world. Our economy depends on China.

You cannot use Bahasa to do business with China and other foreign countries.

So, what is so wrong if our finance minister spoke in Mandarin?

When I left school in 1952, Bahasa was not taught. My knowledge of Bahasa is very limited. In 1960, when I was a young engineer working for the Public Works Department (PWD), currently known as JKR, my monthly salary was only RM760. I was given extra allowance to learn Bahasa. I was required to pass standard one Malay.

In the exam, I was required to translate one message from Malay to English which was easy for me. But I found translating English to Malay very difficult.

I had to translate part of a message: “Fire! Fire! Call the fire brigade!” My translation was: “Api! Api! Panggil Api Kereta!”

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the controversy over Lim’s Chinese translation was a trivial matter. Why does no one dare complain when Mahathir often speaks in English?

Koon Yew Yin is a retired chartered civil engineer and one of the founders of IJM Corporation Bhd and Gamuda Bhd.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.