The below excerpt is taken from The Sun : What They Say by Zainon Ahmad. The nature of our national language Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia (in dispute in the following conversation) was discussed in a casual conversation among a few friends and their teacher.
What do you think?
CHONG: Sometimes I wonder whether the language we use is Bahasa Melayu or Bahasa Malaysia. Or is it the case of "what’s in a name"? After all they mean the same language. Can we use the name interchangeably, my friends?
Azman: What is bothering you Chong? Of course they are the same.
Chong: Confusing lah! On Friday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak when speaking at a function billed as the International Bahasa Melayu Public Speaking Competition said that the government is gearing up to promote Bahasa Melayu as a cultural and civilization element to the world.
Azman: What’s so confusing? Bahasa Melayu or Malay refers to the language or the lingua franca of the Malay world, which is much of Southeast Asia.
Mohan: So the PM was referring to the language and culture of the Malay world. But shouldn’t Indonesia be promoting it. After all isn’t it the biggest component of the Malay world?
Azman: Well, you got me there.
Chong: Anyway the New Straits Times report on Saturday referred to the language as Bahasa Melayu. It’s correct I suppose. In the Malay Mail it was Bahasa Malaysia. In the English version of the Bernama report it is Bahasa Malaysia but in the Bahasa Malaysia version it is Bahasa Melayu.
Azman: Is that so?
Sulok: Yes, I read all the reports and it is as Chong said. All the Malay papers said Bahasa Melayu. I didn’t see The Star on Saturday. Wonder whether it used Bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Melayu.
Mohan: Anyway if you guys are diverting to discussing our national language, Article 152 of our Constitution says "The national language shall be the Malay language …" And then in 1963 the National Language Act was passed which states among other things that it is the language for all official communication. The Act has been amended many times but basically it is still the same. Since the passing of the Act we called our national language Bahasa Kebangsaan.
Sulok: Ya, that’s right. I remember we used to have Bahasa Kebangsaan week and Bahasa Kebangsaan month. We had all kinds of competition to promote the use of Bahasa Kebangsaan, essay writing, speech making and so on. And there is even a song. All for the purpose to make the language acceptable as a national language to the people of Sabah and Sarawak as well.
Chong: And then it became Bahasa Malaysia. Somebody told me why it was appropriate for the language to be called Bahasa Malaysia. Cikgu?
Zain: Indeed it was appropriate. No one objected. It was a language to unite all the people of Malaysia. After all it was already the lingua franca of the people in the country even before Merdeka or Malaysia Day. So to call it Bahasa Malaysia was most appropriate.
Chong: Malay was also the language or lingua franca of the region even before the coming of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British.
Zain: Yes. And in its various forms, Malay was the lingua franca of the Indonesian archipelago. Such that when that country became independent it adopted it as its national language but called it Bahasa Indonesia. It could have made the language of the most dominant and numerous people, the Javanese, the national language but it didn’t as it was not the lingua franca throughout the archipelago.
Chong: That’s it, that’s it. I remember now. Malay is the language of the Malay archipelago which includes Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and even the Philippines. Indonesia adopted it as its national language and called it Bahasa Indonesia. So when Malaysia adopted it as its national language it was appropriate to call it Bahasa Malaysia. Am I doing OK, Cikgu?
Zain: You’re doing fine.
Sulok: I think things changed when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim became education minister in 1986. Right, Cikgu?
Zain: Right. Bahasa Melayu came back into use. First, the language subjects were renamed Bahasa Melayu and subsequently wider usage of the name in other areas outside schools. Of course those used to the term Bahasa Malaysia continued to do so. Others were a little confused like Chong is confused now.
Mohan: But I thought it was changed back to Bahasa Malaysia sometime ago.
Zain: In April 2007, the cabinet unanimously endorsed changing the name back to Bahasa Malaysia. Then Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin announced it on June 3, 2007 saying that it was appropriate as the language belonged to all Malaysians.
Mohan: Yes, I remember. I also remember many Malaysians cheered him for that statement.
Chong: OK, that’s settled then. To me that’s more important than promoting wider use of Bahasa Melayu in the world. "
(Note: the nature of the conversation might be altered to be politically biased as "things changed when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim became education minister in 1986", and the revert of name to Bahasa Malaysia was received 'positively', as depicted in the following conversation. )