KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 — The act of changing the name of roads on Malaysian signposts from being displayed in the Jawi script to being written in other languages such as Mandarin and Tamil is “rude”, the Malaysian National Writers Association (PENA) has said.
PENA president Mohamad Saleeh Rahamad reportedly said making such changes to signposts would allegedly amount to an attempt to remove Malay heritage, also asserting that the Jawi script is Malay heritage.
“So removing it and replacing it with Mandarin characters, for example, is an effort that is really not harmonious in the context of Malaysia,” he was quoted as telling local daily Sinar Harian.
He was asked to comment on the change in road signages in Shah Alam in Selangor, where signposts initially in the Malay language and Jawi script were changed to the Malay language and Mandarin.
Mohamad Saleeh reportedly said the change in road signs would typically require prior approval from the local authorities, adding that local authorities should not have allowed the Jawi script to be changed to another language.
“Whether this is an order from politicians or the effort of the local authority itself [in changing the Jawi script], this is clearly an action which has to be immediately cracked down on,” he was also quoted as saying.
He reportedly said that a failure to immediately curb such changes would potentially result in the same situation spreading to other cities, especially in areas allegedly administered by any political parties with racial interests.
“There is also the possibility that other races would demand that their language also be used in signposts for road names and that this would be widespread,” he was also quoted as saying.
On November 15, Twitter user @khairulryezal had questioned the use of road signage that also featured Mandarin, besides the Malay language.
Shah Alam tempat saya bermastautin adalah satu bandaraya yang unik. Bukan seperti Kepong, Bukit Bintang, Seputeh dan sebagainya, Shah Alam majoritinya penduduk Melayu.— Don Juan deRyezal (@khairulryezal) November 15, 2018
Kenapa mesti papan tandanya bertulisan Cina? Mana hilangnya tulisan Jawi yang dulu? pic.twitter.com/NSboLWeuD2
The Twitter user claimed the Shah Alam city where he stayed was “unique”, saying the majority of its residents are Malays unlike Kepong, Bukit Bintang and Seputeh in Kuala Lumpur.
The Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) had then via its official Twitter account @sacitycouncil informed the Twitter user that the Selangor government had previously decided to use dual-language signages based on the local community.
“MBSA wishes to inform that the Selangor government’s local government executive committee had on January 13, 2017 decided that besides using Latin script for (dual language) signposts for road names, the use of names in traditional village areas will be using Jawi script, while Mandarin characters will be used in new villages in line with the community in that area.”
New villages are a historic legacy of the nation’s fight in the past against Communists, when Chinese communities were forcibly resettled by the British into these “new villages” that have now evolved into areas where the Chinese are still often the majority.
Jawi script is based on Arabic alphabets, and was formerly widely used in Malaysia to transcribe the Malay language, before the popularisation of the Latin script.
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