In a unanimous decision last April, the Cabinet felt that reverting to the term Bahasa Malaysia would help inculcate a sense of belonging for all citizens irrespective of race, Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin told The Star.
I was the first batch of students in 1992 who sat for both Bahasa Melayu and Kesusasteraan Melayu (Malay Literature) papers at the STPM examinations (Form Six).
Zam said the term Bahasa Malaysia was introduced by Tunku Abdul Rahman after the country's independence to inculcate a Malaysian identity. “It was generally accepted and no one asked for a change until (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim became the education minister (in 1986).
“He dropped the term Bahasa Malaysia for Bahasa Melayu and it has remained that way. But now, we feel we should go back to the original term,” he said.
Understandably Anwar may be on the other side of the political divide, but Zam should concede that it was a Cabinet decision then too to rename Bahasa Malaysia as Bahasa Melayu. The decision was not solely made by Anwar Ibrahim who was education minister.
I welcome decision and would like to urge the government to rethink all its Malay centric policies e.g. political, social and economic and to adopt a Malaysian approach in policy formulation and implementation.
The government should recognise that the use of the term Bahasa Malaysia over the span of 30 years had failed to create a better sense of national unity and interethnic relations. More has to be done than just the change of terminology.
Meanwhile, the decision to revert back to Bahasa Malaysia should not jeapordize the emphasis on multilingualism and the rights to receive mother tongue education.