JUNE 28 ― The Chinese calligraphy couplets that are displayed in the office of the Minister of Finance should never have been a news item.
The fact that Lim Guan Eng was criticised over Twitter for displaying them in his office indicates the inclination of some Malaysians to stir up racist and extremist sentiments.
How is Chinese calligraphy offensive? The couplets in question represent two lines of poetry which read as follows: “May the fate of the nation prosper and welcome a golden era” and “May everyone in the family get along well and a hundred businesses boom.”
These couplets are customary and ornamental in nature during Chinese New Year.
In addition, the minister’s office also has a large framed wall hanging of a Quranic verse, and Maneki-neko (common Japanese cat figurines). Are these deemed inappropriate too?
Criticism claiming that the couplets are disrespectful of the position of Bahasa Melayu as the national language is preposterous as the couplets are ornamental in nature.
This is in no way different from Malay employees decorating their work space with Raya ornaments.
In addition to this point, the minister through his own initiative recently awarded a lifetime monthly allowance amounting to RM5,000 to our National Laureates as a tribute to their efforts and dedication in building Bahasa Melayu as the national language.
Efforts to rebuild the country’s economy, implement reforms, and develop the rakyat are often sidelined by vexatious potshots that distract and divert the public’s attention as in the case of the photographed couplets.
The actual context of the photographs is this: they were taken during the courtesy call by the president of Microsoft Corporation Asia Pacific to the Ministry of Finance.
While the media is free to report what it chooses, it is hoped that one day it will go beyond the need to resort to racial and religious themes in its efforts to attract readership.
It is also hoped that the Malaysian media will mature and ignore senseless triggers that are disruptive and divisive. Let us respect each other’s cultural differences and celebrate the diversity that makes our nation unique.
* Zakiah Hanum Kassim is Head of Corporate Communications at the Ministry of Finance Malaysia.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.