The prime minister is busy promoting his idea of making the Malay language as a widely used medium of communication not only within Malaysia but also in Asean and beyond.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s missionary-like zeal would have fired up a deep sense of pride among some Malaysians under normal circumstances.
But given the global and national backdrop, this promotion seems like a sorely misplaced priority.
The world is emerging from Covid and grappling with the crisis in Ukraine and the unprecedented sanctions on Russia. The global economy looks fragile; environmental concerns are looming in the polar regions; and climate change is wreaking havoc.
With so many challenges and uncertainties, wouldn’t strengthening trade, food security, and socio-political and economic ties be a greater priority than marketing the nation’s national language in the region and globally?As it is, Malaysia is struggling with the damage to its reputation arising from the 1MDB scandal as more revelations surface in courtrooms here and abroad.
Fuel prices are rocketing and the nation is faced with a multibillion-ringgit debts involving a major Malaysian oil and gas company.
Food prices are spiralling as inflation soars across the country, hurting wage earners, small and medium businesses, and the lower-income group.
And despite the highest Covid vaccination rates in the region, people here still worry about the high infection and hospitalisation rates, including deaths.
The political situation in the country is far from stable as the stakes rise with a general election looming.
Against this grim background, it is puzzling why the Malaysian government seems so gung-ho about promoting the use of the national language outside its shores, especially within the Asean region.