When the bill was passed on 18 August 1954 to pave way for the first Federal Elections, the Alliance set up a 30-man council to organise their election campaign.
A key feature in the campaign manifesto was to safeguard especially the promises to safeguard the rights and interests of the Malay and Chinese communities.
One of the key points agreed was the need for a common language as a national language. There was little doubt that the Malay language was to be upgraded as the national language. At the same time the manifesto guaranteed protection, growth and development for the language of other communities.
Lord Reid, who was tasked with drafting the Federal Constitution, presented that ‘Malay should be the national language and English should be retained as an official language for 10 years’ (Report of the Federation of Malaya Constitutional Commission 1957, para 170, London: HMSO CO No.330).
The final version of this part of the Federal Constitution can be found in Article 152, in Part XII.
When the Director-General of the Ministry of Education recently made an excuse on behalf of a school found to have its students singing the National Anthem ‘Negaraku’ in Mandarin, I attribute that to either his ignorance of the Federal Constitution and the special position of the Malay language, and also of the National Anthem Act, 1968.
To give a lame excuse that the anthem was sung NOT in a formal event was a bad move on his side. To give an even lamer excuse that the anthem was sung in Mandarin in order to help non-Malay students to understand the National Anthem made it even worse. Whoever advised the DG to say such things should offer his or her resignation right away. If there was no one advising, perhaps the DG himself should offer to resign.
There are only two versions of the Negaraku according to the National Anthem Act, 1968. In the attendance of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the full version is played. The shorter version is played in attendance of the Raja Permaisuri Agong or other Rulers AFTER the respective state’s song has been played.
You can find the score of the anthem in a schedule made under Section 2 of the said Act, and also the lyrics. The lyrics is in neither Mandarin nor Arabic. It is in Malay, the national language. There are no other versions of the Negaraku.
Therefore, be it an official or unofficial event, the Negaraku has to be sung in Malay, and not in any other language. There is no unofficial version of the Negaraku in the Act.
To help non-Malay students understand and embrace the meaning of the lyrics of the anthem, you can print its meaning in whatever language that you want, but the anthem shall be sung in Malay.
Some detractors used the excuse that the Negaraku was adapted from a French tune called ‘La Rosalie’ which was said to have been composed by Pierre-Jean de Béranger. But there is no evidence to support this as de Béranger was a lyricist whonwas known to have used the tunes of others for his songs. Perak was the first to use the tune for its state anthem ‘Allah Lanjutkan Usia Sultan’ in the 19th century.
But whatever song a national anthem was adapted from, you sing it as it should be sung, according to its lyrics. ‘God Save the Queen’ came from a popular Scottish tune, ‘Remember O Thou Man’ and was used in the national anthem of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The ‘Star Spangled Banner’ was adopted from a popular English song, ‘To Anacreon in Heaven’.
But we never hear the Hindi version of ‘God Save the Queen’ in schools in England, nor have we ever heard of a Mexican version in schools in the US. A national anthem is a national symbol, like the national flag. It is to be sung with respect and honoured as a rallying point – a symbol of unity.
To suggest otherwise or to make excuses to defend stupidity is just blasphemous.