KUALA LUMPUR: Bahasa Malaysia will again be the official term to be used to refer to the national language.
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, said Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin.
All ministries, public universities and local institutions of higher learning have been directed to inform their relevant departments and agencies to begin using the term Bahasa Malaysia in letters, notices and documents with immediate effect.
It is understood that the heads of the various ministries are sending out these directives following the Cabinet order.
“The Malay language belongs to Malaysians of all races and not just the Malays. The term Bahasa Malaysia would instil a sense of belonging,” Zainuddin told The Star yesterday.
He 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.
“RTM will use the term Bahasa Malaysia to refer to the Malay language from now. I have also instructed all private television and radio stations to comply.
“All newspapers, irrespective of language, will also have to refer to the language as Bahasa Malaysia,” he said.
By using the term Bahasa Malaysia, he said a psychological barrier would be removed, not just for Malays but also other races.
“The Malays, for example, must not see Bahasa Malaysia as a language used (solely) by themselves. If Malays truly want to promote the language regionally or globally, they should not be worried if others use it for religious reasons such as their books and sermons.
“Similarly, non-Malays would also not see the language as a Malay language but a language that belongs to them,” he said.
Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said the move “is to show that the language does not belong to just one race.”
“This is for national unity,” he said.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said the decision was most timely “as we celebrate the country’s 50th national day”.
“The term Bahasa Malaysia is more appropriate as it will build a greater sense of nationalism for all Malaysians,” Chan, who is also MCA deputy-president, said.
Concurring, MCA secretary-general Datuk Ong Ka Chuan said the term Bahasa Malaysia was an original one was accepted by most Malaysians.