KUCHING: Sarawak’s Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister indicates the state will not back down from its English as the second official language policy.
Datuk Fatimah Abdullah, who keeps a watching brief on education for the state as the matter falls under the purview of the Federal Government, said the Sarawak government wanted as many people as possible to be bilingual or better.
“I also don’t see how learning two languages well would make us less patriotic. I ‘sayang’ Sarawak, I love Malaysia,” Fatimah said yesterday.
Pressed for more comments, the minister replied she did not want to repeat the criticism of others whom had sparked negativity.
“We never said we should not use Bahasa Malaysia. In fact, look at the Malaysia Education Blueprint – both languages are stressed. Here, we are trying to do something we hope will provide the right environment for everyone in society to realise the importance of English,” Fatimah said.
She added that it made sense to encourage the state civil service to be English proficient as Sarawak was wooing more international investment. “We encourage foreign companies to come here. We emphasise the Sarawak Corridor of Renewal Energy. One way to improve is to be multilingual.”
Fatimah was speaking to reporters after a briefing on the Malaysia Deaf Games, which will be held in Sarawak next year.
It was the second time this week Fatimah had defended Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s English as an official language alongside Bahasa Malaysia policy.
On Monday, when opening a Asean rural and indigenous education seminar, Fatimah, who was a school principle before becoming a politician, said Adenan had shown “political will” on the English policy.
“It has been stated clearly by the CM. Once it is stated, we know where we stand, then we can plan,” she said, adding that without political will, no politician would have wanted to push through such a matter.
The state government had requested Teacher Education Institutes to give special consideration to prospective rural trainees on English, she said.
An institute in Miri has begun taking in more Penan school-leavers to train them to become English teachers.
On a related matter, five Penan villages in Tutoh-Apoh area in Baram would have new purposed built kindergartens next to their longhouses. The in-community early childhood centres are being funded by Petronas upon the state’s requests.
“Had we waited for normal (funding) procedures, then the longhouses would have had to wait. Since we wanted to provide the longhouses access to early childhood education faster, we negotiated with Petronas and manage to get allocations for the first five years (of the programme),” Fatimah said.
Funding for the kindergartens will eventually come from the Community Development Department.
In Sarawak, there are over 16,000 Penans in 130 villages, mostly around Baram in Miri and Belaga in Kapit.
The pre-school project by Petronas is for the Penan villages of Long Jenalong, Long Kerangan, Long Leng, Long Kawa and Long Selulong, all along the Sabah-Sarawak gas pipeline.