Sarawak will still use English alongside BM in govt communications despite PM reminder

26 Oct 2023 04:22pm
The Sarawak State Legislative Assembly Building, ASTANA and DBKU buildings in front of the Kuching Waterfront, Sarawak. (PHOTO SOURCE: 123RF)
The Sarawak State Legislative Assembly Building, ASTANA and DBKU buildings in front of the Kuching Waterfront, Sarawak. (PHOTO SOURCE: 123RF)

SHAH ALAM - The Sarawak civil service can still use English in official communications despite Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s reminder that all government departments will not entertain any letters that are not written in Malay.

State secretary Datuk Amar Mohd Abu Bakar Marzuki said Sarawak will not “follow the reminder” made by Anwar as it did not apply in the state, as reported by The Borneo Post.

“That does not apply in Sarawak,” Amar said.

Although he did not clarify why the state government departments and civil service were exempted from the reminder, it was believed that he was referring to how English was still Sarawak’s official language alongside Bahasa Melayu.

In Anwar’s speech at the opening of the Karnival Dekad Bahasa Kebangsaan and Dekad Membaca Kebangsaan yesterday, he said the letters received by the government from the public and private sector that is not sent in the national language would be returned to the sender.

“If they receive a letter from local companies or universities in a language other than the national language, just return it to the sender.

“The empowerment of culture, language, and literature is an integral part of nation-building, so let us not underestimate it.

“And I hope this reminder is duly noted. The directive is clear,” he had said, adding that this would not make Malaysia narrow-minded because the government does not undermine the importance of English proficiency.

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Meanwhile in June last year, it was reported that Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg announced that the state’s civil service would continue using English officially alongside Bahasa Melayu.

He emphasied that Sarawak's stance was not against the national policy on the use of the national language but there were two official languages specific in the Sarawak Constitution, adding that the state remains steadfast in its policy, prioritsing both Malay and English.

Abang Johari had cited Article 161(3) that allows the use of English in the High Court in Borneo or for the proceedings in the Supreme Court.

Prior to the Madani Unity Government, former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob also implemented several initiatives to further strengthen the use of Bahasa Malaysia in the country and elevate the position of the national language at the international stage.

Among them were for ministers to use Bahasa Malaysia when attending events abroad such as conferences or bilateral meetings abroad.

Walking the talk, Ismail delivered Malaysia's National Statement in the mother tongue during 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York back last year.