Experts: Spell out abuse of Bahasa clearly if introducing penalties

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 — The proposal to punish the abuse of Bahasa Melayu will require clear definitions of such acts to be enforceable, said experts

According Institute of Political Reform and Democracy Malaysia (Reform) director Datin Faridah Jalil, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) Act was more suited to enhancing the use of the national language than for punishing its misuse.

The former law lecturer for Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia also told Berita Harian there were already better suited laws to deal with “disrespecting” the language, such as the Criminal Procedure Code and Sedition Act.

“If a letter from the government is not written in Bahasa Melayu, is that an offence? If a meeting is not held in Bahasa Melayu, was an offence committed?” she said to illustrate the challenges in punishing the so-called misuse of the national language.

“The laws that are readily available are not clear on the responsibilities of using Bahasa Melayu for government agencies and the private sector.”

Faculty of Shariah and Law lecturer at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia Mohd Hazmi Mohd Rusli said he did not know what would constitute “disrespecting the national language”.

He said without a clear definition of the proposed offence, he said many instances would appear to fit.

Among others, he cited instances of lawmakers speaking in pidgin Bahasa Melayu in legislatures, which he said was common.

“Is it insulting Bahasa Melayu on social media as what we see a lot of now? I do not know what a language offender would look like. That is something that needs to be defined,” he was quoted as saying.

Yesterday, DBP board of governors chairman Prof Datuk Seri Awang Sariyan said two amendments were being proposed for the DBP Act that would make “disrespecting Bahasa Melayu” punishable by imprisonment or a fine of up to RM50,000.