KUALA LUMPUR, April 17 — An Indian literature group has accused the Education Ministry of denying non-Malays rights to Bahasa Malaysia by saying the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) dictionary belonged only to Malays and cannot be questioned by other races.
Kayvan Literary Group (Kayvan) president Uthaya Sankar SB said today the ministry’s stand showed it was trying to deny that the national language belonged to all Malaysians regardless of race.
“A response like this that represents the Malaysian government will surely frustrate noble attempts to raise the status and dignity of Bahasa Malaysia, as well as efforts to build Bangsa Malaysia,” he said in a statement.
This comes on the heels of the Education Ministry’s response to a report in Tamil daily Makkal Osai on March 31 that the Kamus Dewan contained words offensive to Indians.
The ministry’s statement had stressed that words in the Kamus Dewan must be seen from the Malay perspective and not from that of other races, pointing out it compiled words used in Bahasa Malaysia, including those borrowed from other languages like English, Chinese, Sanskrit, Tamil, Dutch and Arabic.
It said that all races in Malaysia must accept the fact that the Bahasa Malaysia dictionary reflects Malay language, customs and culture.
“There are words used daily that are regarded as obscene by other races but not to Malays. There are also words that are considered precious to Malays but seen as insulting by other races,” the statement by the ministry’s corporate communications unit said.
“All that is part of the customs and culture of the Malays and should not be questioned.”
DBP is under the supervision of the Education Ministry. The Kamus Dewan, first published by DBP in 1970, is now in its fourth edition.
Uthaya Sankar also pointed out today that the statement ran counter to the government’s goal of getting young people of all races to use Bahasa Malaysia, as well as efforts to get parents to send their children to national schools.
“The ministry should take steps to democratise Bahasa Malaysia and not restrict it to a particular race,” he said.
He warned that if no action is taken to clarify the misleading statement published on the ministry’s official online portal, Bahasa Malaysia risks being seen as a language that belongs to one race only.
Uthaya Sankar, nonetheless, said that Kayvan, founded in October 1999, will continue to uphold Bahasa Malaysia as the language of all Malaysians.