Zam: Chinese in self-isolation mode
Former information minister Zainuddin Maidin said while Chinese Malaysians do not wish to be called ‘pendatang’ (immigrants), they want to hold on to the identity of ‘bahasa pendatang’ (their mother-tongue).
In his latest blog posting, he noted how Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had called on the Chinese community to learn Bahasa Malaysia during the recent MCA annual meet.
If the Chinese are unable to converse and understand proper Bahasa Malaysia even after 57 years of independence, Zainuddin said the situation would not change for another 50 years unless there is a new and genuine realisation.
"I believe Najib made the call after realising that there are still many Chinese, including the younger generation, who can't speak, read or understand Bahasa Malaysia.
"Although they learn Bahasa Malaysia in Chinese schools, the language is taught by Chinese teachers themselves and they study the language just to pass examinations," he added.
Zainuddin said the majority of Chinese in this country do not have a Bahasa Malaysia identity unlike the Indonesian Chinese with Bahasa Indonesia, Thai Chinese with the Thai language, Singaporean and American Chinese with the English language.
"So why do they get angry when they are misunderstood as 'bangsa pendatang' when they themselves do not wish to identified with the national language.
"This is self-imposed isolation from the mainstream," he added.
Zainuddin, who is popularly known as Zam, said even Najib during high-level functions attended by Chinese Malaysians speaks in English even when there are no foreigners present.
Conduct comparative study
The former Utusan Malaysia editor-in-chief also called for an "honest" comparative study to be conducted on employment hurdles.
Zainuddin wanted to know whether Malay graduates faced employment difficulties because of their lack of proficiency in the English language or if Chinese Malaysians from vernacular schools encounter hurdles due to their inability to converse well in both English and Bahasa Malaysia.
"Therefore Chinese firms are forced to give them priority," he added.
Zainuddin also recalled how more than 50 years ago, the nation's first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman (right in photo) requested Chinese businessmen to use Bahasa Malaysia in their signboards.
"They protest because they claimed it would affect their business.
"Even now, when there are meetings involving Chinese Malaysians, including MCA, they will place Bahasa Malaysia at the lower end or not use it at all," he added.
Zainuddin’s comments come amid calls from Umno leaders to review the existence of vernacular schools, which are blamed for creating racial divisions.