As expected, all round support for Adenan to use English

KUCHING: Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem must be the proudest man in Sarawak when he received all round support from Sarawakians including members of the Opposition over his decision to use English as the official language in his administration.

This was not altogether unexpected though, as many Sarawakians have always been supportive of English as the state’s official language.

No previous chief ministers – Penghulu Tawi Sli (second CM), Abdul Rahman Yakub (third CM) and Abdul Taib Mahmud - dared to speak out the way Adenan did against polices that are deemed detrimental to the interests and rights of Sarawak. Adenan even described some federal policies as “stupid”.

Only the first Chief Minister Stephen Kalong Ningkan dared to fight for the Borneonisation of the Sarawak Civil service, for “Sarawak for Sarawakians” and defended the use of English as the official language of the State.

But then Ningkan and his party, Sarawak National Party, did not have the support of other parties in the Sarawak Alliance – Parti Pesaka anak Sarawak, Parti Berjasa and Parti Panas.

For his courageous efforts, Ningkan was dismissed by the Sarawak Governor in September 1966 upon instruction from Kuala Lumpur and the support of local parties.

Now it looks like we have another “Ningkan” in the person of Adenan Satem.

“My strong stand in English has irritated some of the so-called nationalists who accuse me of being anti-nationalistic and anti-patriotic. To me this is just being realistic,” Adenan was quoted as saying.

He said the recent news reports that more than 1,000 doctors in the country gave up their careers after completing their studies was a sad revelation, calling it proof that English language should not be sidelined.

“What is even worse is the failure of 45,000 graduates who can’t secure proper jobs due to their inability to speak and write decent English? I am being practical here. If we do not address this problem, we will be like India one day where a master’s degree graduate has to drive a taxi for a living,” he said.

For Adenan’s courage, Sarawak DAP has not hesitated to give him its full support. Indeed it is very rare for the Opposition parties like DAP to express support to the State government over any policy.

As Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen said: “Our support is based on the simple reason that English has always been the official language of Sarawak, since the formation of Malaysia till this day.

“Bahasa Malaysia was never the official language of Sarawak, but somehow, the State government’s practice has, over the years, gradually switched to using Bahasa Malaysia as the official correspondence language.

“Now that Adenan has made the announcement to use English as the official correspondence language, the important thing is the follow-up action that needs to be taken by State government agencies to implement this announced policy,” said Chong, who is the Kota Sentosa assemblyman and MP for Bandar Kuching.

He proposed three measures to be taken by the State government towards this announced policy and the aim to uplift the standard of English in Sarawak.

Firstly, it should start with the State Legislative Assembly that its official correspondence should start using the English Language.

The last notice of meeting which he received in October was still written in Bahasa Malaysia.

Secondly, Chong suggested a crash course in English for civil servants to find out how many government officers, especially those below 40, could correspond in proper English.

“It is not their fault that many of them cannot write proper official English letters. These are the generations who are the victims of the government policy to abolish English medium schools, which were implemented since the 80s.

“The damage was done more than three decades ago and now we are feeling the effect of the stupid policy of the past and present,” lamented Chong.

He said it was impertinent, therefore, that the State government should organise crash courses for the government officers to write proper official English letters. Otherwise, they would just continue to correspond in Bahasa Malaysia which they were more comfortable with.

Chong’s third measure to tackle the poor English standard in the civil service and the public in general was through education.

“However, to rely on the national education syllabus to improve our children’s standard of English is to hope for the impossible.

“Even though Adenan may be very vocal about fighting for Sarawak’s autonomy in education, so long as Sarawak BN remains in the National BN, Sarawak will not get this autonomy, the school syllabus will still be set by Putrajaya not Petrajaya,” he said.

If only Sarawak BN decides to quit from the national BN, this would force the Federal government to seriously look into the review of the Constitution and to devolve the autonomous power in education to the State.

“However, if Adenan wishes to remain in BN, then the next best thing for him to do to carry out this reform is to set up fully state-funded private schools with English as the medium of instruction with zero schools fees,” he added.-The Ant Daily

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