(Nov 27): Malaysians must not allow narrow perceptions under the guise of nationalism to come in the way of learning English in order to compete globally, said former minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz today.
She said communicating in good English or any other foreign language would not make one any less Malaysian, and urged politicians not to politicise the issue.
"We need to nurture Malaysians with global exposure and who can compete globally. Please do not jeopardise the future of our young and the future of Malaysia by continuing to make education and language political," she said in a Facebook posting.
"We must not be so parochial about language. We must not allow narrow perceptions to prevail under the guise of nationalistic spirit 'semangat kebangsaan'.
"It does not make anyone less Malaysian if he or she can communicate well in English or any other language, for that matter."
Sarawak's recent decision to make English the state's second official language drew criticism from the peninsula, with Malay rights group Perkasa reportedly calling the decision an "insult to the Federal Constitution".
Putrajaya's adviser on social and cultural affairs, former minister Tan Sri Rais Yatim, meanwhile, said the move would sow discord among ethnic groups.
Rafidah said she shuddered every time language and race issues were used by politicians and "would-be" politicians.
"Please let us be rational and realistic about the national language. First, Bahasa Malaysia is our national language. We must be proud of it. No doubts about it.
"But we are living in a dynamic, highly competitive and knowledge-based world. Not keeping in pace will render us being left far behind. We need our young to also be competent in communicating in other languages that are relevent... English, Mandarin, Japanese.
"And where are we? We argue about 'sovereignity of the national language' and vehemently call to 'martabatkan Bahasa Kebangsaan' (uphold the national language)," the Umno veteran said.
She said she did not become less of a Malay despite being educated entirely in English.
"I also did French. I did not become less Malay.
"In fact, I was able to do my little bit for my country, because I could interface with anyone out there by being able to speak and effectively communicate everything in English," the former international trade and industry minister said.
She took to task critics of Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem for his decision, saying even Malaysia's founding fathers negotiated the country's independence in English.
"Certainly no one else could be more nationalistic than our founding fathers who made us 'merdeka'?" – The Malaysian Insider