The real national anthem. Please stand up!

Some Malaysians even have the gall to claim that they do not know they are supposed to stand when the anthem is played!

pic by BERNAMA

A ROSE by any other name would smell as sweet. However, this is not about a rose that could be called differently in any other language.

We are talking about the sanctity of Negaraku, our national anthem that seems to have been disrespected and taken for granted in many ways. Not by foreigners, mind you, but by our own people. Sad, but true.

In Thailand, the national anthem is played at every occasion, even at the cinemas before the beginning of any film that is shown.

Foreigners are obliged to stand with the locals who would be very crossed if their anthem is not honoured. Yes, they take it very seriously.

In our case, we’ve seen videos of Malaysians who nonchalantly remain seated at formal functions when the Negaraku is played.

Some would even have the gall to claim that they did not know that they were supposed to stand when the anthem is played!

Last week was yet another weird period when a video that showed a bunch of schoolchildren singing Negaraku in Mandarin went viral.

That video was followed by another similar recording which shows some older students singing the national anthem in Arabic. Seriously?

Then, came a reply from a certain Education Ministry’s official, who said the Negaraku was actually translated into other languages so that the children could understand the true meaning of the song.

Come on! Are we admitting that our education system has failed so miserably that we couldn’t seem to teach our children our own national language?

While everyone was throwing brickbats and pointing fingers, a special report by a daily newspaper revealed that the translated words of Negaraku in Tamil and Mandarin could be found in history textbooks that have been used in vernacular schools since 2014.

One suspects that this has been going on far longer. A posting on social media by someone who claimed that he went to a Chinese school said he had to sing Negaraku in Mandarin during his school days in 2011. What gives? To some, this is a small matter.

But mind you, the issue is even bigger. If you are born in this country and you don’t even know how the flag looks like and can’t remember a word of the Negaraku, consider yourself a non-citizen.

We should be ashamed of our neighbour Singapore, a country that seems to be mainly run in English.

Yet, when it comes to their national anthem, Singaporeans would stand together when they proudly sing Majulah Singapura.

Their prime minister (PM) is also known to be able to deliver his speech in Malay rather impeccably, as it is the country’s official language.

Last weekend, after all the debate by many quarters and “excuses” concocted by officials, PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had to step in with a rather “gentle reminder” that the Negaraku can only be sung in Bahasa Malaysia.

He said Malaysians should know how to sing Negaraku in the national language as it is enshrined in the Constitution.

However, he did say that translations are permitted to enable other races to comprehend the meaning of the words.

Still, anyone who is born in Malaysia should not be given any translation to the anthem, as it is sung in the national language, no? Which brings us to the next issue.

Is it Bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Melayu? Those who grew up in the 70s and 80s were taught Bahasa Malaysia at school.

For some reason, children who went to school between 1986 and 2007 were taught Bahasa Melayu, and they continued to use the term till today.

For the uninitiated, constitutionally, our official language, or standard Malaysian language, if you may, is a normative register of the Johor-Riau dialect of Malay.

To recognise that Malaysia is composed of many ethnic groups, one would think that it is more appropriate to use the term Bahasa Malaysia to denote the unifying language or lingua franca.

However, despite all the explanations, many would still argue about the right term that should be used.

Maybe the wonderful people at the Education Ministry could rectify this. And please, once we’ve introduced the official term, let’s make it permanent.

Living in perpetual confusion is not fun at all.

Zainal Alam Kadir is the executive editor of The Malaysian Reserve.