The Edge - Karpal: Time for English to be second official language.
Short summary - Anwar sued Dr Mahathir 3 years ago for alleged libel. He lost suit. He engaged Karpal Singh to appeal. Justice Abdul Malek Ishak dismissed Anwar Ibrahim’s case.
The appeal was not drafted in Bahasa Malaysia. It was in English.
Karpal Singh sighed that points of submissions and arguments in the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Federal Court proceedings are still done in English, and most ironically of all, Justice Abdul Malek, who dismissed the case on a language technicality, wrote his 30-page judgment in English.
Karpal left a parting shot at Justice Abdul Malek, stating: "I would have thought there was more than a need for him to have written his judgment in Bahasa Malaysia in view of the strong language he uses in support of it."
Wakakaka -sometimes the best we can do is just to laugh at the situation, as we can do buggerall, at least until the next general election.
Leaving that aside, I have personally found that of the 3 major ethnic groups in Malaysia, the Indians have been the ones not only the most fluent with English but who feel completely at home with its usage. In other words, to many Indians, English is virtually their ‘mother tongue’.
Now, before Indians or non-Indians start jumping on me, I need to qualify what Indians I have in mind.
Indian Malaysians aren’t a homogenous group – the common ethnic groups are the Punjabis like Karpal Singh (a minority in Malaysia), the mamaks (meaning ‘uncles’, a common appellation for Indian Muslims), Tamils including the Sri Lanka variety (the majority group, and I was told, the latter would look down on the former as socio-cultural inferiors), Malayalams, Telugus, etc.
Socially there are the highly marginalised groups like labourers, rubber tappers and poor, and the very very rich like Ananda Krishnan and MIC leaders, and lamentably caste-wise, the Brahmins at one end and the Dalits at the other.
Then there are the majority Hindus, a significant Muslim population, Bahais and some Christians but very rarely Buddhists (unless they’re Singhalese which mean they would refuse to be classified as Indians in the first place).
So on so forth …
The Indians I have in mind are the urban educated middle-class, regardless of ethnic origins – dads or/and mums are usually doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, teachers, academicians, businessmen, etc. They and their families are more likely to be speaking English at home (possibly except with their servants), unlike their social equivalents in the Chinese and Malay communities who would usually lapse into their 'mother tongue' once at home.
Why is this so?
For those English speaking Indians, could it be a traditional hangover from the British Raj days, both in India and colonial Malaya, where English has become so deeply embedded in their professional, social and personal lives that it has become their unacknowledged ‘mother tongue’?
Could it be because they are not motivated to talk in Indian (Tamil or Telugu or Punjabi, etc), as there are far too many languages, a different one for each Indian ethnic group?
Though Chinese also have various ethnic languages, most Chinese can converse across the dialectal divides; despite the dialectal differences there are many common terms/words which are near-sounding enough for their meanings to be guessed at and imitated; best of all (if Chinese educated) the common written form can be read without any trouble or difficulty regardless of its dialectal origin.
It’s not just the English language alone; I observe that most Indians are more at home with English culture – tea and cucumber sandwiches, English literature, poetry, plays, lifestyle, etc. Obviously assimilating English cultural mores and habits help enhance language proficiency.
When I was in India I visited the home of an Indian Brigadier General (someone took me there). I found our host to be nothing less than the perfect English country squire, in dressing, mannerisms and domestic practice.
Dressed impeccably in country tweeds and boots, which you would expect of a gentleman owning a Sussex or Cotswald country estate or farm, he was seated beside the fireplace with a black Labrador dog at his feet (it was winter in Northern Indian then). Shotguns, stuffed deer heads complete with antlers, college or regimental colours lined the walls of the cosy sitting room.
Though his wife and two beautiful daughters wore sarees, if you close your eyes, you would think they were English, speaking in perfect English with only a slight trace of Northern Indian accent.
Naturally we had pre-dinner drinks, dry sherry for the men and sweet ones for the sweeties. A platoon of male servants in magnificent Indian traditional gear served and pampered us.
Oh, dinner was properly announced by the chef (cook?) and semi-formal in the European style. We had the standard chicken soup, grilled pheasants (I was informed by one of the daughters that her dad had shot them gulp), venison (dared not asked whether it was also shot by the General), veg, wine, desserts, etc.
Of course we had port and brandy with our coffee. I was also offered a cigar but I politely declined.
‘Twas all a jolly good show old boy – indeed, rippling old top. God save the Queen ;-)