Call on Cabinet to decide on Wednesday that the government and nation formally observe the fourth International Mother Language Day on Feb. 21 as Malaysia was one of the 28 countries which seconded the proposal which was adopted by UNESCO in 1999
- Penang State DAP Chinese New Year Open House
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Saturday): Since last year, DAP had been calling on both the government and the civil society in Malaysia to celebrate the fourth International Mother Language Day on February 21 in a big way as the country is the home of several mother tongues of its citizens.
It is unfortunate that Malaysia had not observed the International Mother Language Day in the last two years since its proclamation by UNESCO General Conference in November 1999, with the first celebration held on February 21, 2000, although Malaysia was one of the 28 countries which seconded the proposal submitted by Bangladesh.
UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura said at the first International Mother Language Day Celebration on February 21, 2000 that “by deciding to celebrate mother tongues, UNESCO’s Member states wished to recall that languages are not only an essential part of humanity’s cultural heritage, but the irreducible expression of human creativity and of its great diversity”.
Highlighting the fact that close to 6,000 languages are estimated to be spoken in today’s world, Matsuura said: “They testify to humanity’s astounding ability to create tools of communication, to its perception and reflection. They are the mirror of the souls of the societies in which they are born and they reflect the history of their contacts. In this sense, it could be said that all languages are cross-bred.
“Favouring the promotion of linguistic diversity and the development of multilingual education from an early age helps preserve cultural diversity and the conditions for international understanding, tolerance and mutual respect.”
In launching the International Mother Language Day, the
General Conference of UNESCO in 1999 recommended
that member states should
b) promote, through multilingual education, democratic access to knowledge for all citizens, whatever their mother tongue, and build linguistic pluralism.
There are those who think that in the age of globalization, humanity uses fewer and more globally accepted languages. Noted writer, John Naisbitt, pointed out however that while this may be true in one sense, "As English becomes everyone’s second language, their mother tongue becomes more important and passionately held".
The Cabinet should decide on Wednesday that the government and nation formally observe the fourth International Mother Language Day on Feb. 21 especially as Malaysia was one of the 28 countries which seconded the proposal which was adopted by the UNESCO in 1999 and because we are an excellent example of linguistic diversity as the home of several mother-tongues of Malaysian citizens.
A special government-civil society committee should be formed to implement Resolution 12 of UNESCO’s 30th General Conference 1999 on the International Mother Language Day.
The Penang State Government should be the first State Government to formally observe the International Mother Language Day on Feb. 21, in keeping with the motto, “Penang Leads”.
Regardless of the decisions of the Cabinet and the Penang State Government, DAP will celebrate the International Mother Language Day on Feb. 21, both in Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
Representatives of all political parties, both ruling and opposition, educational bodies, NGOs and the civil society will be invited to a International Mother Language Day conference in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 21. The Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman will be invited to the International Mother Language Day celebration as linguistic diversity is one of the fundamental human rights which Suhakam should protect and promote.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman