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Make English second official language, Malaysia urged

A leading Malaysian Indian lawyer-lawmaker wants the constitution to be amended to make English the second official language to enable its free use in courts.

world Updated: Dec 11, 2009 20:26 IST

A leading Malaysian Indian lawyer-lawmaker wants the constitution to be amended to make English the second official language to enable its free use in courts.

Reacting to a judgment stipulating use of Bahasa Malaysia in courts and for filing documents, Karpal Singh, who is also the Democratic Action Party (DAP) national chairman, said while there was no doubt that Bahasa Malaysia united the people in the country, it was English language which united nations throughout the world.

He said as a result of English not being given its rightful place in court proceedings, foreign investors, including multinationals, resorted to arbitration instead of referring disputes to courts in the country.

"This is not a step in the right direction as it reflects a loss of confidence in the judiciary," The New Straits Times Friday quoted him as saying.

Judge Abdul Malik Ishak in the Court of Appeal Wednesday made his observations in a written judgment when dismissing an appeal by Leader of Opposition and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim in his defamation suit against former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Karpal Singh noted: "It is curious that in emphasising the supremacy of the Malay language in the courts, he has written his judgment in English.

"I would have thought that there was more than a need for him to have written his judgment in Bahasa Malaysia in view of the strong language he used in support of it."

Malaysia was a British colony with widespread use of English before becoming independent in 1957. Besides English, Malay, spoken by the majority population, Chinese and Tamil are in use in the multi-ethnic society.