News reports about the attorney general’s push to have a Malay language version of the country’s 66-year-old Federal Constitution as its authoritative text should not be allowed to drift by without public review.
This push raises many concerns and ambiguities.
It would become even more complicated if Sarawak retains English as its official language alongside Malay. Sabah Pakatan Harapan leaders had only last year proposed English as the state’s second official language.
How will this affect the laws of the nation if the peninsula looks to the Malay language text of the Constitution as the ultimate authority and source of reference and interpretation while Sarawak and Sabah have English as one of their official languages?
If the Malay language text of the Constitution is to considered the authoritative text, then will this mean that all those studying law will have to be taught in Malay?
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Yet, many in Malaysia are studying for UK law degrees in the English language, either in England or externally in Malaysia. Those taking up these courses cannot change the medium of instruction. So how will this move affect them if they want to practise in Malaysia?
If this drive to have an authoritative text in Malay of the Federal Constitution proceeds, who will be given the herculean task (and the singular authority) of determining the final wording and terminology of this text – without altering the content and meaning of the Constitution, as presently understood and interpreted by the courts?
On second thoughts, is this sudden push to rewrite the Constitution borne from sentiments of patriotism, nationalistic zeal and fervour or is it just sheer obsession?
Or is there another insidious plot grinding away?
Will this ‘national language’ plan to translate the Constitution serve as a transition for the consecration of Sharia law as the ultimate law of the country?
Civil society and learned legal minds must converge to debate and help forge an appropriate decision in Malaysia’s best interests.
The questions raised here are just a small sample of the fears, concerns and reservations among many thinking people.
Many of our political allies and trading partners will be intently watching this matter. Surely, Malaysia cannot afford to lose any of its partners.
The sudden need to change what has worked well for over six decades is difficult to comprehend.
Surely there are far more urgent matters of national interest that should be prioritised ahead of this ‘push’ – like the war on corruption, which threatens our social fabric.
Or are we saying that an authoritative Malay-language text of the Constitution will somehow save the nation from all its critical problems?
Pray that we can arrive at a sensible conclusion before it is too late.