The fine for ‘bad BM’ is unconstitutional

Baru Bian

Modified 16 Nov 2017, 7:55 am

ADUN SPEAKS | I refer to the reported proposal for the imposition of a fine of RM1,000 by the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka for the use of incorrect Bahasa Malaysia, via the amendment to the National Language Act 1963 and Education Act 1996.

This is a flawed proposition and seeks to punish, not to educate the public. It is a draconian move that will cause resentment and avoidance of Bahasa Malaysia by the public. Is there any other country that imposes a fine such as this for the improper use of their language?

In the first place, what is the definition of “proper Bahasa Malaysia”? Is there a gold standard documented somewhere for the poor public to follow?

Who is to judge what amounts to “proper Bahasa Malaysia”? Is there going to be a degree of acceptable “improperness” beyond which the fine will be imposed?

Imposing a fine is ridiculous because languages, including Bahasa Malaysia, are always evolving, and people continue to learn the language as it evolves.

Many words are adopted from the English language, and this is necessary where there are no equivalent words in Bahasa Malaysia for the term. This is especially true in the scientific and technical fields.

Would some people consider these adaptions as improper?

In Sarawak, English is recognised as an official language as provided for under the Malaysian Agreement. This right is further safeguarded in Art 161 in Part XIIA of the Federal Constitution.

Furthermore, the government is encouraging the people to excel in English, as it is recognised as the lingua franca of the world, and mastery of the English language is necessary for us to be global players in all fields.

We would regard this move to impose fines for incorrect usage of Bahasa Malaysia to be unconstitutional.

This move by the federal government is another manifestation of the high handedness of government officials who have the mistaken belief that punishment yields results.

This could also well be a politically motivated strategy for West Malaysian audiences, designed to divide the people and to foment resentment and insecurity.

This proposal to impose fines for people’s weakness in a language is immature, ill-conceived and a waste of time and resources. It will not benefit any party in the end.

BARU BIAN is the state assemblyperson for Ba’ Kelalan and Sarawak PKR chairperson.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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