Some even suggest that the English language replace BM as the medium of instruction in our educational system, but with a face-saving gesture that BM be continued as a subject with the proviso that students must obtain a credit in that subject.
Such pronouncements ignore the fact that Malay is enshrined in the Constitution as the official and national language. Let us be reminded that the essence and ethos of any civilisation is reflected in its norms and values, traditions, artistic expressions and especially its language.
Language is the core of any human civilisation as it is used to record its evolution as well as express various experiences of its evolution and existence. In fact, the psyche, thoughts and expressions of creativity of its people are through its language.
So, language is the pride of its people, and to belittle the language is to humiliate its people. Just look at nations around the world such as France, Germany, Spain, Greece and Israel.
They regard their language with pride and esteem, and regard with hostility those who deride their mother tongue.
But, in Malaysia, there has emerged a trend to challenge and undermine the Malay language. It would seem that certain sectors of the people have a stigma against the Malay language, looking condescendingly at it as one bereft of intellectual capacity and capability.
These people may not be aware that Malay was the lingua franca of this region known as the Old Malay World that comprised most of the Asean countries.
It was a language of intellect and commerce. Historical records and literary works, such as hikayat, syair, and traditional medical compendium, such as Kitab Tib, were recorded in the Jawi script, which is now almost defunct.
The Constitution clearly states that Malay is the national and official language of Malaysia. There should not be any unilateral or multilateral attempt to undermine the sanctity of the language by proposing English to be the second official language and the main medium of instruction in schools and universities.
This does not mean that we are discarding English. As in countries such as France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, among others, where their respective languages are paramount in every sphere of governance, the English language is now widely used for international relations and corporate engagements.
Likewise, there should be uniformity in the use of the official language in the governance of this country that incorporates administration, security, justice, education and in the deliberations of the lawmakers in Parliament.
Diplomatic engagements and international commerce may be conducted in English or other languages as the case may be. But to deny the Malay language its constitutionally sanctioned and pivotal position and to negate its importance as the lingua franca of the Malay Archipelago (spoken by almost 300 million people) even before the advent of the Indian and Islamic influence is tantamount to disrespect.
This unfortunate position is due to the fact that even after 58 years of independence, a sizeable number of our citizenry is unable to converse, let alone write intelligently, in the national language.
One cannot deny that the existence of vernacular schools has contributed to the stigma against the Malay language.
It is imperative that this language issue be put in its proper perspective according to the tenets of the Constitution, and the practised and accepted conventions underlined by the reality of the acquisition of knowledge and global engagements, without sacrificing the sanctity of the national language. Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin, Penang The NST Online 30 November 2015