AT THE recent Intercultural Dialogue, participants were asked to write down one thing about Malaysia that they are proud of, sorry about, and wish for. While the first two asked them to reflect on the past and present state of affairs, the third required them to project into the future.

The metaphor of a person’s life being a journey from the past to the present into the future is applicable to the life of a nation as it has a collective memory filled with successes and failures, and a future where dreams and wishes can become a reality.

The collective memory of a nation is the sum total of the private memories of its people informed by the events in their lives and the daily rituals, ceremonies, customs and traditions which bind them. Some of these become the stuff of written history which, it must be said, does not preclude the selections, perceptions and interpretations of historians and writers.

Narratives which are passed on orally or written down unofficially are stamped as unsubstantiated and unevidenced records, with a great many relegated to the status of folklore, myths and legends. However, it cannot be denied that they, too, have been interwoven into the national psyche and can be identified among the more substantive parameters or markers of the national identity. Folk heroes like Robin Hood and Hang Tuah have become embedded in the people’s collective memory for their bravado and heroic exploits, but more importantly for the values they upheld – loyalty, valour, love and honour. To debunk these cultural heroes would be to remove a slice of the people’s pride and what should be a part of our national identity.

Of course, they cannot be accorded the same stature as the nation’s modern icons who lived and live in times when their contributions can be recorded in print for posterity. Even then, not everything is fact. The noble deeds of Sybil Karthigesu in standing up to Japanese rule, which few today were witness to, are recorded in several reputable books and dramatically interpreted in a play. We should allow Sybil Karthigesu and Hang Tuah to rest in peace!

Malaysian history has recorded the path of successive government leaders in implementing an education system suited to the people’s needs or rather, an interpretation of what the people want. The people’s needs, however, are as diverse as their backgrounds and socio-cultural make-up. Still, it is incumbent upon the ruling government to revert to the country’s laws and statutes in formulating the nation’s development policies. The supreme law of the land is the Federal Constitution which an enlightened government can interpret in the best possible way for the people.

It was in this spirit that participants of the recent dialogue recorded their wish for a one-school system, for the English stream to be reinstated in the national school system and for all the vernacular languages to be made compulsory to make the Malaysian identity truly multilingual. If only all our wishes can come true!

I, too, tested my luck and declared that if I were the Education Minister I would implement a comprehensive bilingual policy. This is my ardent wish for Malaysia. This, I believe, will be a highly respected marker of the Malaysian identity as the nation takes its place as a global player.

We must unashamedly acknowledge the huge chunk of history when English was the medium of education and produced outstanding Malaysians who embodied the national identity at home and abroad. We might not like the fact that we were colonised by the British but we should at least admit that they educated us well and instilled in us some sound values.

I will go further and suggest that the present government should implement a comprehensive bilingual education policy. It should not be hesitant to call it the Bilingual Education Policy or Dasar Pendididikan Dwi Bahasa. This would be much easier to say than “Memartabatkan Bahasa Malaysia dan Memperkukuhkan Bahasa Inggeris”.

Surely, we are confident that the national language will continue to grow into a well-structured modern language with an impressive lexical repertoire of everyday as well as specialist vocabulary. This will ensure its use in the global arena when our leaders proudly use it in their international interactions. We will then develop a body of well-trained and articulate, bilingual interpreters to mediate these multinational discussions.

Undoubtedly there are many “sorries” too as we reflect upon our failures as a nation and as a people. To be identified as a nation of litterbugs and road killers is a horrendous thought. To be known as a nation of unethical and morally corrupted citizens is shameful indeed.

But it’s really up to the people to determine where we want to be.

2 Responses to “WISHES WISHES!”

  1. 1 wawa
    February 15, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Wow Datin in shocking pink.Lovely,lovely,lovely.!


  2. 2 ninitalk
    February 15, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    ALAMAK! Orang tua pakai warna terang tang tang!

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