Translation by Dr. Lim Keng Huat


Malay: sons and daughters,

Your hot chest is flaming your shirts,

Coffin 152: the wein,

Behold in the cemetery of parliament.


Endless hard breathe can no longer block it,

We will stop singing from today onwards.


Soon the night will fall,

Every door and window must be well guarded.

The shadows are too late to fall on the streets.


Malay: sons and daughters,

Your names have been summoned.

Answer your call,

Act before your tongues turn numb.



This is my first translation from Malay to English. I was born in the era of English education in Malaysia. Pardon me, if there is any mistranslation.

The above poem was written in 1967 by Usman Awang, a Malay poet laureate, against the infamous advent of  Act of Parliament in 2002. If I am not wrong, he was against the bastardization of the Malay Language, rather than against the dual language policy or the learning of another language by Malays. In May 1969, an ugly racial war broke out in the country, and the war drums could still be heard today. Like it or not, dual language policy helps all ethnic races, including the Malays. English has been an International language, and soon the Chinese language will become one too. Literature in Malaysia has four main languages, and many think English (more neutral) will be a bridge to link the so-called vernacular with the mainstream. However, resistance is still strong among the young Malays, who curiously felt threatened for their own selfish interest. In their recent street protest, they carried a cardboard coffin with the figure 152, reminiscent of the poem.





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