KUCHING: Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian regards as “nonsense” Social and Cultural Affairs advisor Tan Sri Dr Rais Yatim’s claim that Sarawak’s emphasis on English could cause disintegration in society.
Baru, who is state PKR chairman, said Rais was absolutely wrong to make such claim, when the real cause of disintegration in the society, particularly in Sarawak and Sabah, was the failure of BN government in taking care of the people in both states.
“The federal government’s neglect on Sarawak in the fields such as education and health are the ones that caused disintegration, not by using English as means of instruction,” he said in a press conference here yesterday.
Baru pointed out that while Rais was right in saying that Bahasa Malaysia is the official language of the nation as stated under the Federal Constitution, many had forgotten that the state’s right to use English was its right under the 18-point Malaysia Agreement.
“It was agreed that we were to use English for 10 years and after that, then the state government and Sarawakians could consider whether we are prepared to do away with English as our official medium of instruction.
“We have done that and we decided not to (do away with English as our official medium of instruction). So, that was a right under the Malaysia Agreement under the 18 points which everybody agreed to.”
Therefore, he said, Rais and other Malay rights groups had no right to criticise Sarawak’s emphasis on English.
By emphasising on English, Baru added, it did not mean that Sarawakians were not patriotic, adding as pointed out by Land Development Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing, Rais himself wrote his PhD in English and that did not mean he was less patriotic.
“Therefore, I would like to support our chief minister on this issue but at the same time, I would like to ask him, what are the steps that the state government would take to achieve what he had announced because we don’t want this to turn out as mere rhetoric?”
When informed that some state civil servants could not speak English, Baru said the only way is to hold special training or workshops for them, adding that the state government should not wait for the federal government for funding.
As for the federal government departments, he said the state government should have its own policy to require the personnel to be able to speak English, adding they should be changed if they refused to follow the requirement.
As a way to strengthen English among Sarawakians, particularly school children, Baru suggested that the state government make use of state reserves to hire retired English specialist teachers or encourage more exchanges of teachers from foreign countries such as the Fullbright Programme to teach English in the state.
“Perhaps, the other way is to start English as compulsory subject in even preschools and kindergartens and encourage them to teach English by giving some incentives to them. I think we have to start from there.”
By emphasising on English, Baru reiterated, he was in no way suggesting that the language should replace Bahasa Malaysia. Instead, both English and Bahasa Malaysia should be given equal emphasis, he pointed out.
“In fact, I would like to go further that not only English should be given emphasis, the different ethnic languages should also be promoted.”