28 May 2022
Rafidah Aziz has slammed Chief Secretary to the Government Zuki Ali for calling on the public service department (JPA) to consider punitive measures to “enforce” the use of Malay in the civil service.
The former international trade and industry minister said civil servants’ competence in English used to be a key driver in attracting high-quality foreign investments.
Rafidah pointed out that when she was leading the international trade and industry ministry (Miti), she had asked for all of the ministry’s communications to be conducted in English, to ensure efficiency in the delivery of its services.
“Every year, the private sector honoured Miti with the annual enterprise award. Communication was facilitated and effective.
“The vision and reference point was ‘Malaysia in the regional and global infrastructure’. Not Malaysia in its own ‘syok sendiri’, tiny, self-wound cocoon.
“If this mindset of being inward-looking persists, with penalties imposed for communicating with the rest of the world in English, then we will be the bureaucratic pariahs in Asean,” she said in a statement today.
Earlier this week, Zuki was reported to have said that JPA needs to consider punitive measures to enforce the use of Malay in the civil service and other government-related agencies, including government-linked companies.
He said this was in line with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s announcement that Malay would be used not only within the country but also internationally.
Rafidah described the move as regressive, saying civil servants should instead be raising their proficiency in English and other relevant languages.
She especially sympathised with Miti officers and others who still needed to deal with the foreign community, should they be forced to comply with the use of Malay on all official matters.
Rafidah said that not equipping young Malaysians with the language and communication skills to effectively address the rest of the world would be doing a disservice to the country.
“We should be progressing and moving forward, not regressing and sliding backwards and downwards. We must focus on substance, not on mere form.”
The G25 group of former top civil servants had also criticised Zuki, speaking of a need for recognition of the English language’s importance to Malaysia.
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