PETALING JAYA: Other Asean countries may not respond well if Malaysian civil servants are forced to use Bahasa Malaysia when corresponding with the international community, says Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.
She said this in response to Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Zuki Ali's call for the Public Service Department (JPA) to consider punitive measures to enforce the use of Bahasa Malaysia in the civil service.
"If this mindset of being inward-looking persists, with even penalties imposed for not communicating with the rest of the world in Bahasa Malaysia, then we will be the bureaucratic pariahs in Asean," Rafidah said in a statement on Saturday (May 28).
Rafidah, a former international trade and industry minister (Miti) said during her tenure, she had asked for all of the ministry's communications to be conducted in English to ensure efficiency in the delivery of its services.
"Every year, the private sector honoured Miti with its annual enterprise award," Rafidah said.
She added that she sympathised with Miti officers and others who have to deal with the international community, should they be forced to comply with the use of Bahasa Malaysia on all official matters.
She also said Malaysia's civil servants' competence in English used to be a key driver in attracting high-quality foreign investments.
"Malaysia was indeed the preferred investment and business destination where communication was facilitated and effective.
"The vision and reference point was 'Malaysia in the regional and global infrastructure'. Not Malaysia in its own 'syok sendiri' (self-indulgent), tiny, self-wound cocoon," she said.
On Tuesday (May 24), Zuki was reported as saying that he hoped the JPA could examine actions that can be taken against those who take lightly the instructions related to the use of Bahasa Malaysia in the civil service.
He said the corrective and punitive action, apart from reprimand based on language audit, is not intended to intimidate, but rather to ensure that Bahasa Malaysia as the national language is not used arbitrarily.