Hari Bahasa Melayu – 10 years of promoting Malay in Sri Lanka

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When COSLAM inaugurated Hari Bahasa Melayu in 2006, organized teaching of Malay in Sri Lanka was at a standstill. For a community who boasted of publishing two newspapers in Malay, Alamat Lankapuri and Wajah Selon, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamat_Langkapuri), by the 21st century the use of Malay, especially in its writing form, had not only dwindled away but gone extinct. The attempts of conducting Malay classes with the auspices of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and other various means had by then proven unsuccessful.

The reason for these failed attempts was perhaps that such programmes encouraged Sri Lankan Malays to learn the Bahasa (Standard Malay), which had no relevance to the average Malay language user in Sri Lanka. It was very  much a foreign language. Learning a completely new standard of language when one already had a language which served all purposes would not have been alluring to the average Sri Lankan Malay. The language no doubt is full of borrowings, changes from original meaning, code switching and mixing, but for the average user, it sufficed. In addition, by trying to advocate a higher standard of one’s language, it would have also sent a message that the current language was ‘low standard’ or ‘crude’. This idea would have made some question the goal of teaching the higher standard as well.

However, the silver line of the cloud came with Hari Bahasa Melayu. The reason behind its survival for the past 10 years would have been the flexibility with which the organizers conduct the competition in terms of standard and its rules. Not only can a participant choose answering in Sri Lankan Malay over Bahasa, one can also write in which ever text/alphabet (s)he is comfortable with; English, Sinhala or Tamil. This flexibility has broken down the limitations that caused a certain discrimination, encouraging participation throughout the years.

In 2006 Hari Bahasa Melayu was open to four age groups under the categories of Essay and Oratory. The Award Anugerah Bahasa Melayu for outstanding contribution to the preservation and development of Malay Language was also introduced from inception. The Sri Lankan Malay Dictionary, compiled by B. D. K. Saldin and Dr. Lisa Lim was launched at Hari Bahasa Melayu Ke -2 in 2007. Widening its scope in 2010, the Malay Language Competition was introduced replacing the Essay category for the Under 12 group, and the following year was extended to the other groups. With this introduction, a syllabi and pre-competition seminars came to being. Further expansion of the competition in 2011 came with introducing it to Kandy and Puttalam, in addition to Colombo and Hambantota. The Anugerah Masyarakat Melayu (Malay Community Award) was introduced in 2014 for achievers who had brought fame to the community by their outstanding feats.

The Anugerah Bahasa Melayu has been awarded to eight distinguished people in the past 10 years; B. D. K. Saldin, Tuan Haji Shereiffdeen Jamalon, Moulavi Muzni Ameer (2006), Dr. Umberto Ansaldo, Dr. Lisa Lim, Farook Thaliph, M. H. N. Emran (2007), and Dr. Sebastian Nordhoff (2011). The Anugerah Masyarakat Melayu Award was given to the following persons in 2014; Major General M. Z. R. Sallay, M. R. Latiff, T. B. Samsudeen and Tuan Ruffin Saldin.

Hari Bahasa Melayu Ke -10 is a significant year. Continuing an event of this nature for a decade undoubtedly is no easy feat. The competition will be held under the age categories of Under 12, 15, 27 and 21 for Malay Language and Oratory. The Open event consists of an Essay and Oratory competition. The schedule is as follows;

  • Puttalam           – 2nd October
  • Hambanthota  – 9th October
  • Kandy                – 16th October
  • Akbar Town     – 23rd October
  • Colombo           – 30th October

More information regarding the competition and registration can be obtained by contacting Hareena Adjumain, Secretary – Organizing Committee on 0777 161583

Click HERE for press Release

Tinaz Amit
Surviving in the field of Public Relations, mainly because it keeps me closer to things I enjoy; reading, writing and research, with a smatter of socializing. Daughter, wife, mother and career woman, trying to keep a level head while juggling all these roles, just like all others. Cynical to the extreme but has the required amount of social skills to restrict expressing them to the world.

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