PETALING JAYA: Malaysian politicians with a weak grasp of the English language should use an interpreter when addressing an English-speaking audience, says Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing.
"The inability to speak English fluently is not something to be ashamed of.
"It is not a benchmark of intelligence and the sooner our politicians realise this, the better it would be for them," he was quoted as saying by news portal Dayak Daily.
He related a personal experience where he was part of a Malaysian delegation that met with an Italian minister while on a trip to Lake Como in Italy.
"The minister briefed us on waste disposal methods in Italian but had an interpreter relay it to us in English.
"I read his resume prior to meeting him and saw that he obtained his engineering degree in London.
"This meant he definitely had the ability to converse in English," he said.
Masing said the minister could have spoken in Italian for several reasons.
"Using Italian showed a sense of nationalism and pride in his mother tongue.
"Having an interpreter was also a smart ploy for the minister to buy himself time when responding to our questions," he added.
Masing made the suggestion about interpreters in light of recent widely-shared videos showing two Cabinet ministers delivering speeches in less than fluent English.