Does it violate fundamental rights and the Constitution to throw away any English-language correspondence addressed to the federal government?

By Remy Majangkim, MA63 Activist, Tutor and Historian


KOTA KINABALU: Recently the Prime Minister has announced that the government agency should not accept any correspondence made in the English language, but rather in Bahasa Melayu with reference to Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka translation and definition.

This comes as a shock to many of us that prefer English rather than Bahasa to express our opinions, concerns and dealing with the Federal Government.

The State Government of Sarawak declares that it continues and accepts English in the state, as a form of correspondence, we are still waiting for the Sabah State Government to respond to the issue.

The evolution of Bahasa, which is widely spoken and written in the country, started in school. The morph from Bahasa Melayu, Bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Baku. Sabahan particularly excel in Bahasa Baku, as in they could assimilate to their respective native language.

I remember that we took pride in mastering the language compared to our friends over the ocean. So why in such a sudden way did the Federal Government declare it such?

Does it infringe our basic Constitutional rights as guaranteed in the Federal Constitution? If you look closely at article 10 (1) (a), every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression.

Does ink & paper part and parcel of expression if one writes to the Federal Government in English?

Interestingly, the Federal Constitution also provides additional protection for Sabah and Sarawak under PART XIIA ADDITIONAL PROTECTIONS FOR STATES OF SABAH AND SARAWAK, under article 161 (2)(C) to the use of the English language in the State of Sabah or Sarawak in the Legislative Assembly or for other official purposes (including the official purposes of the Federal Government).

It is clearly stated in the Constitution, and there is an inconsistency that strikes two for the Prime Minister.

The act of discarding any letter to the Federal Government in English, including Sabah and Sarawak, may constitute a breach of our basic rights and the Constitution.

As a reminder, the current sitting Federal Government, including the Prime Minister, sworn to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution as stated on the sixth schedule (1) (Oath of office and allegiance) of the Federal Constitution.

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