Laman Webantu   KM2A1: 2238 File Size: 5.7 Kb *

Why Baku unacceptable - MGG Pillai
By web aNtu

25/1/2000 8:04 am Tue

Why Bahasa Baku is Unacceptable Pronunciation of Malay

In 1988, the education miniter, one Anwar Ibrahim, ordered that
time-honoured Johore-Riau pronounciation of Bahasa Malaysia was not
nationalistic nor native enough, and introduced a system of
pronunciation when he then imposed on his charges. He called it Bahasa
Baku; almost everyone else was sure Baku was a short form of "bahasa
anak keling utara". After much water under the bridge, with several
education ministers, including the present deputy prime minister, the
cabinet discovered it had not caught on and should be discarded
forthwith. The education minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamed, said Bahasa
Baku should not be taught in schools nor used in television and radio
broadcasts. Besides, it confuses the public. "What is the use (of
teaching bahasa baku pronunciation in schools) ... it is taught only in
schools but the public does'nt speak it." Like the smart schools his
predecessor went into with alacrity and in which his wife's involvement
in providing hardware and software became a scandal which has yet to
surface, this is yet another move to confirm the widely held view that
the education portfolio is not to ensure a sound basic education for
children, but to use them as guinea pigs for their political
advancement. When Bahasa Baku was introduced, it was rammed down the
throats in ways only Bolehland knows how, as the new system is. It was
half-baked then, created by graduates in linguistics who themselves were
not linguists and by obsessive politicians wanting to prove their
commitment to education. It has nothing to do with education.

Bahasa Baku was not widely used. TV3 does, but not RTM. The
public -- and this includes the Prime Minister -- speaks in the dialect
of whence they come from. The immediate past education minister got
himself out of a political difficulty by claiming he spoke in the Pekan
dialect which was misunderstood! Last week, the minister in the Prime
Minister's Office, Dato' Rais Yatim, ordered radio and television
stations to use Standard Malay pronunciation instead. It was a gross
mistake, he implied, and time it is corrected. Were it that simple! A
wide body of influential opinion thinks the government has gone too far,
and conflicts with the law on standardisation of spelling and
pronunciation. The Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka or the Language and
Literary Agency, entrusted with these matters, opposes it. But Dato'
Rais insists that "there should not be any suspicion or opposition
because language depends on its use by the people", quoting a phoenetics
expert who said language evolved with the community and not shaped
within an official mould. Did it take the Cabinet 11 years to realise
this, and the education ministers after Dato' Seri Anwar and before Tan
Sri Musa did not know this? But the decision on Bahasa Baku
pronunciation was itself political. It was rode rough shot over the
same arguments that the minister now pouts, but what the education
minister wants he gets. The education ministry, typically, is a
stepping stone to higher office; it is not to ensure a sound education
system. If that happens, it is accidental. At one time, teachers were
an influential force within UMNO, especially in the early years of the
country independence.

May 1969 changed all that. The man who succeeded Dato' Hussein Onn
as education minister in the early 1970s, Dato' Abdul Rahman Yaakub --
yes, the same man who went on to be chief minister of Sarawak and, as
Tun, Yang Dipertuan Negeri -- politicised the post amidst the virtual
Malay coup in the aftermath of the riots. In the changes that followed,
the teachers became all but irrelevant in UMNO affairs, replaced by
nouveau-riche officially-sanctioned corporate types, and education
became an incidental byproduct in the struggle for power within UMNO.
That underlines this move on Bahasa Baku. The Cabinet did not consult
or study the implications. That this is opposed is clear. The Utusan
Malaysia had a whiff of that. That the move has to explained not by the
education minister but by others as well -- the banning of Bahasa Baku
in radio and television broadcasts should have been made by the
information minister, not, as happened, by a former information minister
-- underwrites the confusion that hangs over the decision. This does
not surprise. The deputy education minister is Dato' Aziz Shamsuddin, a
key man in the destruction of the education minister who introduced
Bahasa Baku pronunciation into the curriculum. This move is yet another
attempt to destroy any lingering legacies of Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim,
who rose to greater heights as deputy prime minister and to greater
depths after his dismissal and subsequent jailing and a#sualt, whilst
blindfolded and shackled, by the Inspector-General of Police whilst
under police custody. The reversion to Standard Malay pronunciation has
nothing to do with the official reasons: it is part of a continuing
botched saga on how not to destroy a political rival. The early rumours
that Tan Sri Musa would be a puppet emerge afresh. It begins to hurt:
Dato' Rais insists the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, as an adjunct of the
Education Minister, has no right to express its views publicly. Well,
it has. What does Tan Sri Musa intend to deal with this rebellion?

M.G.G. Pillai