Monday, 18 April 2011

Malay writers ask non-Malays to stop questioning ‘Kamus Dewan’

KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 — Several Malay writers groups said today Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka’s (DBP) “Kamus Dewan” should only be viewed from a Malay perspective and not any other.

The National Writers Association Coalition (Gapena) and the National Writers Association (Pena) said the dictionary was a collection of words used by Malays that were passed from generation to generation.

Both groups stressed that the contents of the “Kamus Dewan” should therefore not be questioned by any party — including the Kayvan Laureate Group (Kayvan), an organisation representing Indian authors who write in Bahasa Malaysia.

Gapena committee member Datuk Dr Zainal Kling said that while Bahasa Malaysia belonged to all Malaysians, it contained references to other races and cultures originating from a time when the language was used exclusively by Malays.

He pointed out that these words were likely a reflection of Malay attitudes towards other races who were arriving to the Malay peninsula at the time.

“I have found that various phrases and words project different values... such as the word ‘keling,’” Zainal told The Malaysian Insider.

“It is the Malay view of Indian immigrant behaviour in the past and the word is set in the Malay vocabulary but such terms exist in all languages — including English, French, Chinese and certainly Tamil — that are used to describe outsiders.”

Zainal said it was therefore not necessary for the “Kamus Dewan” to be questioned but rather accepted by all as part of the Malay heritage.

He urged Malaysians to acknowledge the existence of racial terms as part of Bahasa Malaysia’s evolution and a historical record of Malay interaction with other peoples in the Malay peninsula.

Malaysians should not be offended by such matters as it represented a linguistic process and socio-historical experience that was embedded in language, Zainal added.

Pena president Mohamad Saleeh Rahamad cautioned that Kayvan’s latest action, following the “Interlok” controversy, would only create “chaos”.

He said Kayvan’s latest statement appeared to be a threat to get words deemed offensive to Indians removed from the “Kamus Dewan”.

“When speaking of the ‘Kamus Dewan’ and Bahasa Malaysia it must be seen from a Malay perspective... even if the language in the ‘Kamus Dewan’ is made up of a mix of languages,” he said.

“If Bahasa Malaysia needs to be seen from another race’s perspective it will disrupt Bahasa Malaysia, so the ‘Kamus Dewan’ should be seen from a Malay perspective.”

Mohamad Saleeh advised Kayvan not to question the terms contained within the dictionary anymore as this would threaten Bahasa Malaysia’s sovereignty as the national language.

Kayvan yesterday accused the Education Ministry of denying non-Malays their rights to Bahasa Malaysia by saying the DBP dictionary belonged only to Malays and cannot be questioned by other races.

Group president Uthaya Sankar SB had said the ministry’s stand showed it was trying to deny that the national language belonged to all Malaysians regardless of race. [READ HERE]

This follows the Education Ministry’s response to a report in Tamil daily Makkal Osai on March 31 that the “Kamus Dewan” contained words offensive to Indians.

The ministry’s statement had stressed that words in the “Kamus Dewan” must be seen from a Malay perspective and not from that of other races, pointing out it compiled words used in Bahasa Malaysia, including those borrowed from other languages like English, Chinese, Sanskrit, Tamil, Dutch and Arabic.

It said that all races in Malaysia must accept the fact that the Bahasa Malaysia dictionary reflects Malay language, customs and culture.

(Syed Mu’az Syed Putra, The Malaysian Insider, 18 April 2011)