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Both English, BM for Sarawak
Published on: Wednesday, December 01, 2021
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KUCHING: Sarawak has the option to use either English or Bahasa Melayu at official functions, therefore choice of language is not an issue, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Parliament) Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

In a press statement issued in Kuala Lumpur, the Santubong MP explained that Sarawak under the Federal Constitution has the option to use both English and Bahasa Malaysia as its official language.

Wan Junaidi stressed that Article 161 of the Federal Constitution, which is on protections for Sabah and Sarawak, states that Sarawak has the freedom to continue using English and also its native languages, together with Bahasa Malaysia, as an official medium of communication.

“This provision is originally incorporated as per annexure A to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63),” he said.

“As of today, Sarawak has not passed any ordinance or enactment in the Sarawak legislation to restrict or terminate the use of English as its official language as stated in Article 161(3) of Federal Constitution, Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) and Cobbold Commission Report.

“Moreover, Section 1(2) of the National Language Act 1963/67 (revised 1971) (National Language Acts) provides that with regards to Sabah and Sarawak, the respective state authorities may adopt National Language Acts by enactments of the Legislatures of the respective states,” he pointed out.

“This means that Sarawak, upon closer look at the wordings of the said National Language Acts, has the liberty to decide as to whether they would adopt the national language, which is Bahasa Malaysia, or to continue using English as the official language. 

“At present, there has not been any ordinance or enactment that has been brought and passed in the Sarawak state legislature to adopt Malay language as their official language,” he added.

The National Language Act, enacted in 1963 and 1967 and revised in 1971, states that the Malay language is the official language for all official purposes with some limitations stated in S1(2) with regards to the position of the national language of Sabah and Sarawak, Wan Junaidi said.

However, Sarawak has not adopted the National Language Act as no law has been passed in the State Legislature to extend the said Act to Sarawak as required under Article 152 read together with Article 161 of the Federal Constitution, he added.

Hence, Sarawak, unlike other states in the Federation, is not required to use the national language in its official purposes, he pointed out.

Wan Junaidi was asked if Sarawak would follow the federal government directive for government-linked companies (GLCs), government agencies and those in the private sector to use Bahasa Melayu only at their official functions and meetings.

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