Sarawak will not back down on English policy, says state minister

KUCHING: Sarawak's Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister has indicated that the state will not back down from its English as second official language policy.

Datuk Fatimah Abdullah, who keeps a watching brief on education for the state, said the Sarawak government wanted as many people as possible to be bilingual.

"I also don't see how learning two languages well would make us less patriotic. I 'sayang' Sarawak, I love Malaysia," Fatimah said here on Wednesday.

Pressed for more comment, the minister replied she did not want to repeat the criticisms of others.

"We never said we should not use Bahasa Malaysia. In fact, look at the Malaysia Education Blueprint - both languages are stressed. Here, we are trying to do something which we hope will provide the right environment for everyone in society to realise the importance of English," Fatimah said.

She added it made sense to encourage the state civil service to be English proficient as Sarawak was wooing more international investment.

"We encourage foreign companies to come here. We emphasise the Sarawak Corridor of Renewal Energy. One way to improve is to be multilingual," she said.

Fatimah was speaking to reporters after a briefing on the Malaysian Deaf Games, which will be held in Sarawak next year.

This marks the second time this week that Fatimah has defended Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem's "English as an official language alongside Bahasa Malaysia" policy.