Lim Kit Siang today weighed in on the controversial plan to introduce khat in the Year 4 Bahasa Melayu syllabus next year, saying that he too had learned Jawi and it did not make him any less Chinese.
Putrajaya’s announcement that it plans to introduce khat, a form of Malay-Arabic calligraphy, has drawn pockets of protests, including by some in DAP, of which Lim is the party supremo.
The Iskandar Puteri MP said that he learned Jawi when he was first detained under the Internal Security Act in 1969.
“It did not make me any less of a Chinese, and may have helped in making me more of a Malaysian,” he said in a statement.
Lim’s statement comes a day ahead of a planned meeting among DAP leaders to discuss the matter. It was previously reported that 138 DAP grassroots officials, including 13 assemblymen, have urged DAP ministers to object to the plans for khat.
As to whether learning Jawi was akin to betraying the Chinese race, language and culture, Lim said “the answer is in the negative.”
He said that people should not look at Jawi’s introduction as cultural assimilation as the introduction of khat writing is an effort for students to recognise the country’s heritage and identity.
Lim said the Jawi script, for example, is in the ringgit note, the coat of arms for Malaysia and in the emblem of the various states.
“I must admit that I had not realised that Jawi is in the ringgit note. This made me look at the Indian rupee note, and there is not only the Hindi official script, but of other regional official languages as well like Tamil, Telegu, Marathi, Urdu, Malayalam, Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi and Kannada,” he said.
Lim said Malaysians seemed to be trapped in an extraordinary situation where every ethnic group feels threatened and every community is made to believe that its culture and ethnicity is facing an existential threat.
He said Malaysians must develop a new self-confidence of “reaching for the stars”, a new “Malaysia Boleh” spirit, to exorcise the various contrived or imaginary fears and demons.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad revealed that only some in DAP were against the idea.