My late father Haji Ahmad Abdul Jalal was a nationalist. A school teacher who was active in the national Malay Teachers Union*, he had fought hard together with his contemporaries for the establishment of a Chair for Malay Studies at the University of Malaya many years ago. He had shed tears when he was invited to Pantai Valley to witness the launching ceremony and would have cried in anguish if he was still alive today to see his fellow teachers being bombarded with water cannons and teargassed by the police at Saturday's protest march (photo), for fighting for what he and his peers had fought valiantly for, half a century ago. (Read the Malaysiakini report, here)
But my father was also a pragmatist. My siblings and I grew up learning English by reading the Straits Times and the occasional copies of Readers Digest and the Dandy and Beano comics which he could barely afford with his meager salary. We didnt do too badly, I think. How many Malay parents would do the same today, I wonder.
Some years ago, I believe I did my bit for the national language when I served on a Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka committee to translate English nautical and shipping terms into bahasa. It was indeed a learning and eye-opening experience for me when I discovered that it was almost next to impossible to deal with many of the English words and terms without simply bastardising the same. Perhaps for this reason only that the courses at the Akademi Laut Malaysia (ALAM) in Melaka, for example, are still being taught exclusively in English.
What I am really against is the 'flip-flopping' on the issue of the language to be used in the teaching of science and mathematics in schools, despite denials from the prime minister. This will be very hard on our children. (Read my earlier posting: "Don't belok-belok", here). On the other hand, high handed government action on peaceful dissent on the matter are not going to make things any better, either.
Perhaps Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah or Ku Li is the only UMNO leader worth listening to nowadays, but sadly nobody in the party appears to be listening to him. I agree with Ku Li when he says, here, that "UMNO is utterly alienated from its meaning, purpose and spirit. No longer the party of the Malay schoolteacher but of the power that directs water cannons and teargas at them. No longer the grassroots party of the Malays, but of opportunists who hide behind the Rulers while they fan hatred between the people."
* Persatuan Kesatuan Guru-Guru Melayu Semenanjung.
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