MANY have engaged in discussion about our Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi’s “speaking skills” in his speech at the August house last week.

Frankly speaking, it is utterly upsetting to see the comments which mainly are pejorative against Zahid, quoting his “poor diction” and his “thick Javanese accent”.

For the record, some even commented:

“Geez, Zahid, just leave your Javanese back at your village!”

“I thought it was Uganda’s president speaking in the video.”

These full with vitriol comments directed at the deputy prime minister and the Javanese heritage that he is surely proud of, show that many are prizing language skills over substance.

In his speech at the United Nations, Zahid addressed several serious international issues. Among other was the worsening global climate change which is currently affecting a number of Small Island Developing States.

Zahid, representing Malaysia had noted the urgency to overcome and avoid the problem from affecting Malaysia. He had further affirmed that the country is therefore adopting Paris Agreement last December.

In the process of ratifying the agreement, he said that the country is now committed to carry out the commitments as stated therein, and will work towards reducing greenhouse gas emission.

One of the issues discussed by Zahid, of which had attracted my attention is the issue of terrorism.

In view of the growing influence of religious extremists, he pointed out the need to win the hearts and minds of those who are indoctrinated by such beliefs.

Image via FMT

He suggested other countries to adopt Malaysia’s deradicalisation and rehabilitation programs, which aim to help change the mind-sets of the radicalised extremist individuals.

By pointing out such a solution, Zahid has in a way shown that Malaysia is adamant in combating one of the most brutal conflicts ever affecting the globe. It also proves that Malaysia, which represents moderate Islam is rejecting violence.

To have pointed out his “poor pronunciation” and what not is simply unfitting. It should not be all about a presenter’s diction, but more about what one is trying to convey.

In this case, Zahid’s speech had highlighted issues that probably would jeopardise the society’s socio-economic condition if left unattended.

Again, what’s more important for the leaders of a country is the content of their message. I would love to see the leaders of my country to discuss on matters that are directly impacting my nation, rather than just “eloquently” presenting a plain text on an international stage.

Having said so…

I believe that if a leader has the interest in intensifying his or her country’s international stature for the purpose of bridging political alliances, trade potential, or the diverse communities, then mastering a language that can deliver “the message” is part of political aptitude.

For instance, if a local leader could express the country’s intention in English, perhaps the world would understand us better. It is simply a choice of best language to get the message across.

Be that as it may, there is no harm in improving our language proficiency. But I do hope that in the future, Malaysians would focus on the positive sides of things rather than dwelling on the negatives, well, like we always do.

It is just unflattering for us to chide at Zahid and get overboard with the matter.

Quoting my close friend’s take on the matter; “If language proficiency is the sole trait to be a good leader, maybe we should have just elected Mahadzir Lokman (English speaking host, also speaks fluent French) as the next prime minister.”

Durjana Dewi is an independent analyst and Malaysian Access reader. Article written is strictly her personal view. Malaysian Access does not necessarily endorse the opinions given by any third party content provider.