Sabah 20-Point Agreement: Language

SeaDemon

“On Page 122 of the MSCC Memorandum, the Committee accepted that the Federation should have a national language and placed no objection to the adoption of the National Language of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore and Brunei (the Malay language) as it is the lingua franca of the region”




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Dr Jeffrey Kitingan also raised the point on language on pages 11-12 of his book, ‘The 20 Points – Basis for Federal – State Relations for Sabah, 1987′.  Language was the second point of the 20-Point Memorandum put forth before Malaysia was formed.

His points were, that:

  1. Malay should be the national language of the Federation;
  2. English should continue to be used for a period of ten years after Malaysia Day;
  3. English should be the official language of North Borneo, for all purposes, State or Federal, without limitation of law.

Dr Jeffrey wrote that it was Tun Mustapha’s administration that had changed the status of English by passing a bill and introducing a new clause 11A into the State Constitution, making Bahasa Malaysia the officia language of the State Cabinet and the State Legislative Assembly.

At the same time, he claimed, the National Language (Application) Enactment, 1973 was passed purporting to approve the extension of an Act of Parliament terminating or restricting the use of English for other official purposes in Sabah.

He also said that the National Language Act, 1963/67 was only amended in 1983 to allow it to be extended to Sabah by a State enactment, but no such enactment had been passed.  Therefore, the National Language Act, 1963/67 is still not in force in Sabah.

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He claims that the amendments hae brought about the following consequences:

  1. Many civil servants who were schooled in English are employed as temporary or contract officers because of their inability to pass the Bahasa Malaysia examination.
  2. The change in the medium of instruction in schools have affected the standard of teaching due to lack of qualified Bahasa Malaysia teachers.
  3. The teaching of other native languages has been relegated to the background.

Now, let us see what the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee (MSCC), the Cobbold Commission, the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) as well as the Federation of Malaysia Agreement had to say about the points raised above.

Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee (MSCC) Memorandum

On Page 122 of the MSCC Memorandum, the Committee accepted that the Federation should have a national language and placed no objection to the adoption of the National Language of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore and Brunei (the Malay language) as it is the lingua franca of the region.

However, the MSCC had asked the Parliament to make provision for the English language to remain to be used for a period of TEN YEARS after the formation of the new Federation in 1963.  This is in light of the same period given to the states in the Federation of Malaya in the Federation of Malaya Constitution that is TEN YEARS after 1957.

The Cobbold Commission

According to the Report of the Commission of Enquiry, North Borneo and Sarawak (the Cobbold Commission) dated 21 June 1962 on page 54, the objection to the use of Bahasa Melayu as the language of the Federation and its application to North Borneo and Sarawak are matters that the people of the two states should resolve themselves when fully-elected representative bodies have been constituted.

The Chairman and members from Malaya do not think that their opinion of Bahasa Melayu being the language closest to those spoken in the region and therefore should be the lingua franca should not offend the non-Malays and any derogation from the Federal provision is necessary.

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