Shah Alam's dual-language signs defaced, council slammed for wasting money

Yiswaree Palansamy
A road sign in Shah Alam with Chinese characters appeared to have been defaced. ― Pictures by Yusof Mat Isa

SHAH ALAM, Nov 21 ― Several of the road signs in Shah Alam with Chinese characters appeared to have been defaced, following public complaints and the subsequent decree by the Sultan of Selangor calling for their removal.

Checks by Malay Mail in the Subang Perdana, Subang New Village, and Kampung Melayu Subang areas yesterday found that on some of those signage, the Chinese characters were sprayed over with black paint.

Some were painted over neatly with green paint, similar to the original colour of the signs. It could not be confirmed if the latter ones were done by the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA), who said yesterday it was in the middle of replacing the dual-language signage.

This comes as several local residents told Malay Mail their displeasure at the amount of public money being spent to install new signage with either Chinese or Tamil script, and subsequently the removal and replacement following the royal decree.

Ng Ket Leng, 69, speaks to Malay Mail during an interview in Subang November 12, 2018.

But several of the ethnic Chinese locals interviewed also pointed out that they care little for the signage with Chinese script.

“I didn't pay attention to all these. Even if the signboards are here, it’s no use. It’s still difficult to find your way here,” said 68-year old Ng Ket Leng when met at Subang Perdana.

“This one is just a waste of money. When finding routes here is already difficult, writing the road names in Chinese is of no use.

“This is not a problem at all. Let's all not fight over this. It's enough with just one language,”  the pensioner added.

Just like Ng, tailor Chor Chong Tin, 59, was also indifferent. But he felt that having Chinese spellings may come handy for those who have poor knowledge of Malay language.

Chor Chong Tin, 59, speaks to Malay Mail during an interview in Subang November 12, 2018.

“Some people don't know Malay or English, so they just read the Chinese language.

“However, just Chinese language alone too won’t do. For me, it’s not a problem. I don't care. I'm very simple,” he said.

Inclusivity or provocation?

But several Malay residents interviewed saw the initial move to install dual-language signage as provocation, with some even suggesting a conspiracy.

“Why must the Chinese wordings be on top and be prioritised?” asked a 65-year-old self-employed resident of Taman Subang Baru, Abdul Majid Sumal.

Abdul Majid Sumal, 65, speaks to Malay Mail during an interview in Subang November 12, 2018.

“I was meaning to ask. Now this is simple. Who did this, and who approved it? That person must face action, because this person, I am sure they know that in Malaysia, Chinese language is secondary to Bahasa Malaysia.

Abdul Majid suggested that the issue may not have been controversial had the Chinese writing been printed below the Malay version.

“If the Chinese wordings are beneath, maybe we can still accept, but the Chinese language was placed first. So, it's as if in Malaysia, the Chinese language is number one and Bahasa Malaysia falls to number two,” he said.

A defaced road sign in Shah Alam.

Omar Hassan, a resident from Kampung Melayu Subang, said he had contacted Kota Damansara state assemblyman Shatiri Mansor, to express discontent over the use of Chinese language on the road signs, claiming that local council rules do not allow such practice.

“If according to the specs issued by the local council in 2017 the council allowed that Bahasa Malaysia must be 30 per cent larger than Chinese writings or the Indian language.

“Chinese and Indian words were also allowed beneath Bahasa Malaysia, but it must be smaller than the wordings of the national language. Likewise, with postcodes and others,” the self-employed Omar told Malay Mail.

Omar Hasan, 61, speaks to Malay Mail during an interview in Subang November 12, 2018.

“However today, we here, have a new village head, and a new state executive committee member, and they raised this type of signboards here,” Omar claimed, although he did not provide any proof.

He also expressed fear that the signage issues might lead to racial tension, claiming that the recent signage have broken the purportedly harmonious life of the residents here.

The Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, in a decree relayed earlier this week through his private secretary Datuk Mohamad Munir Banir, wants the road signs to be changed and the work completed before the Sultan’s 73rd birthday on December 11.

MBSA had previously explained that the Selangor government had previously decided to use dual-language signages based on the local community.

But Malaysian National Writers Association was quoted saying 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 was “rude”.

The Chinese characters on a road sign in Shah Alam were sprayed over with black paint.

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