Sabah and Sarawak believe in the importance of being multilingual.
Sarawak will still accept official letters in English despite Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s recent announcement that companies and universities, including private institutions must use Bahasa Melayu in their official correspondence with government agencies
Anwar reminded government agencies to return the letters that were not written in the national language.
Nevertheless, he said this does not mean the government was undermining the importance of English proficiency.
Reacting to this, Sabah will keep accepting letters in English until they further scrutinise the matter.
According to Sabah deputy secretary Datuk Ahemad Sade, the decision was made by the Federal Government, they would have to discuss it first.
“Since the decision to only accept official letters in Malay was made by the Federal government, we have to scrutinize first. Sabah’s top leadership will be having a meeting to discuss whether we want to follow our federal counterpart in this regard,” he said, as reported by The Borneo Post.
As for Sarawak, state secretary Datuk Amar Mohamad Abu Bakar Marzuki said they will not comply with the decision of the Federal Government.
He said that Sarawak will continue to accept official letters in English as it is one of the official government communication languages in Sarawak.
Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg previously emphasised the value of multilingualism when he announced that English will remain the official language of the state alongside Malay in the public sector.
His remarks were in reaction to a declaration by Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Zuki Ali, who asked the Public Services Department (JPA) to investigate possible legal action against those who disregarded directives to fortify the national language.
According to Abang Johari, the Federal Constitution made it quite plain that Sabah and Sarawak High Court hearings, as well as those in the Federal Court or Court of Appeal, may be conducted in English, as reported by FMT.
Why is this so?
Sarawak recognises Bahasa Melayu as the national language.
However, because its constitution does not have an official religion or an official language, the state government has been using English as its main medium since 2015.
In a report by Malay Mail, they based this on Article 161 of the Federal Constitution that guarantees both Sabah and Sarawak the freedom to choose their preferred languages for official communication.