Language(s) in the Malaysian Judical Process: Tempering Justice with Mercy

Noraini Ibrahim

School of Languages and Linguistics Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia UKM 43600 Bangi, Selangor Darul Ehsan Malaysia



When Malaya achieved independence in 1957, a bilingual language policy was designed to achieve nationalism and nationism (Asmah Omar 1992). Clause 1 and 2 of Article 152 of the Federal Constitution, otherwise known as the Language Act, deem that Bahasa Malaysia is the national language, and English is an official language up to 10 years. When Malaysia was formed in 1963, there was the continued use of English in courts for various practical reasons, foremost of which was the nature of the multi-racial society. In 1980, Bahasa Malaysia was fully implemented in the legal service and the judiciary. Against this backdrop it is thus expected that legal and courtroom discourse is in Bahasa Malaysia. This paper, which is based on a prolonged in-situ ethnographic investigation carried out in a Kuala Lumpur criminal court, would firstly, present findings on the use of language and secondly, offer suggestions as to the continued use of languages other than Bahasa Malaysia in the Malaysian courtroom. But the issue that remains is, will the current practice hamper our nation’s effort to mould a Bangsa Malaysia?

Session: Paper session
Court / Intercultural Communication
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 09:00-10:30
room: 08