I feel sorry for Saad Hashim who wrote Toyota salesmen and the national language lamenting the demise of Bahasa Malaysia as a language that unites us all.
I would like to tell him that my great-grandfather could be found in a 'kopi tiam' with his ethnic Chinese and Indian friends conversing in the Penang version of BM. My great-grandmother spent hours in her (Chinese) friend's convenience store across the road conversing, again in the BM Penang version, about almost anything under the sun.
But these scenes were from the last century and my grandparents and their friends are no longer alive. BM appeared to be a uniting factor. Perhaps it was the collective lack of English-medium education. It may be also that these Malayans (later Malaysians) lived through the most turbulent and tumultuous times of their lives - the Japanese occupation and its deprivations, the communist terrorism and the quest for Independence. It was a time of collective struggle and collective triumph. BM was there for every Malayan in that brave new world.
I am in complete agreement with Being Truthful that non-usage of BM is a symptom of the increasingly unpleasant divide between Malays and non-Malays. BM was amongst the earliest casualty, even before the Islamisation of national schools. Firstly, BM was no longer formally called Bahasa Malaysia but Bahasa Melayu in late 1980s or early 1990s. The label was changed and the language became the sole prerogative of the Malays and no longer a common possession and pride of all Malaysians.
Then, increasing Islamisation of the language succeeded in alienating more than half the population. The incorporation of Arabic terms makes the language intelligible to those who use it colloquially and everyday. For example, the word 'nasihat' (advice) is often used in the Arabic form 'nasihah' nowadays. The word 'babi' is now considered impolite perhaps because half the population consumes it and the other half finds it, for want of a better word, unpalatable. Hence, the animal is now a 'kinzir' instead. Reading BM newspapers or listening to Umno and PAS politicians these days requires a dictionary.
Worst of all, BM became a casualty of Malay Islamo-fascism when the Iban version of the Holy Bible, the Bab Kudus, suffered restricted access. The Ibans have been worshiping in a language not dissimilar to BM. The word 'Allah' which means 'God' in Arabic is only permissible when its usage refers to the Malaysian Muslims' God but not to anyone else's. This is a bit odd when the Muslims and Christian Arabs have no problem with the term Allah in reference to their Supreme Being. These Malay Islamo-fascists are using BM to divide rather than unite the nation (Remember the first Rukun Negara - 'Kepercayaan Kepada Tuhan'- The belief in God).
I don't think cajoling non-Malays into accepting BM as the first uniting factor, as advocated by Saad Hashim, will make us more united. Bahasa Indonesia works because the speakers are first and foremost Indonesians rather than Javanese, Chinese or Acehnese; or Muslims, Christians or Hindu.
Now, back to my great grandparents and their friends in the opening paragraph above, they are forged ahead as Malaysians first in that brave new world. That world no longer exists in Malaysia so hung up by race and religion today. Everyone seems happy with the separate developments (another term for it is apartheid) in their lives and their children's lives.
Therefore, there is no need for a common language that was Bahasa Malaysia. The day that we see ourselves as Malaysians first, being ruled by Malaysians for Malaysians, without any ethnic or religious agenda is the day that we will speak to each other in BM. Not a day before that.