KUALA LUMPUR: Bahasa Malaysia is to be used for official purposes only but translations are allowed, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“Our Constitution provides for all the needs to protect the national language but at times translations to other languages have to be made.
“However, what is official is the one written in Bahasa Malaysia,” he said when replying a question raised by Datuk Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah (BN-Lenggong) in Parliament yesterday.
Dr Mahathir said it was necessary at times to allow the use of other languages, particularly when dealing with foreigners who were not fluent in Bahasa Malaysia.
“We have to take into account foreigners who come to Malaysia and are not fluent in Bahasa Malaysia.
“That is why we have ministers using English or Tamil or Mandarin to explain,” he said.
He noted that translations of Bahasa Malaysia to other languages for correspondence with foreign governments were also permissible.
Earlier, Dr Mahathir assured lawmakers that the position of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language was enshrined in the Constitution and protected by legislation.
He took a swipe at Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man (PAS-Kubang Kerian) for raising the issue over the use of English by police.
“Sometimes we use the Arabic language so that others will not understand and the interpretation becomes inaccurate. So, it is important that when communicating with others in whatever language, the person understands what we are trying to say,” Dr Mahathir said, drawing laughter from the House.
While not mentioning any party in particular, it is believed that Dr Mahathir was referring to PAS’ use of the Arabic language.
The PAS deputy president pressed for further clarification but Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof made an order to continue with the proceedings.