By : Karpal Singh, DAP National Chairman
The criticism by Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal and the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) of the Penang DAP-led Pakatan Government is misconceived, apart from being mischievous.
The Penang State Government's approval of the application by the Penang Municipal to have road signs in Jawi, Tamil and Chinese, in addition to Bahasa Malaysia in Georgetown's heritage sites does not in any way infringe the provisions of article 152 of the Federal Constitution which provides for Bahasa Malaysia to be the national language of the country. Those who argue that the Penang State Government's move is against article 152 clearly shows their ignorance of constitutional law.
It should not be forgotten that Penang is a tourist destination of international repute. This distinction certainly requires that tourists in the country are capable of apprehending multi-lingual road signs. This step is in no way an affront to the status of Bahasa Malaysia as the country's national language. Both Shafie Apdal and the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) should not subscribe to blind nationalism which does not have a place in view of globalisation with which the country must keep abreast.
Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, should be congratulated for setting the pace in encouraging tourism. In fact, his example should be emulated by other states. In this time and age, all barriers which divide people of different nationalities should be dismantled. Even in Russia and China there is thirst to master the English language which is the international lingua franca. In this part of the world, likewise, there is enthusiasm to master Mandarin which is fast becoming a necessity in view of the awakening and opening up of China which will, in due time, determine the rise or fall of economies in Asia.
The Fereral Government should not unnecessarily interfere with the steps taken by the Penang State Government to boost and encourage tourism to counter the negative effects of the looming recession. The Penang State Government should be allowed to steer towards its own destiny without narrow and parochial considerations which will in no way advance the cause of the necessity to promote tourism which is pratically the mainstay of the economies of states like Penang, Malacca, Kelantan, Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak.