Indonesia says Bahasa Indonesia is better choice for 2nd official language in Asean rather than Malay

Rejecting Malaysia's suggestion.

Matthias Ang | April 05, 2022, 06:50 PM

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Indonesia has rejected a proposal by Malaysia's Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, to make Malay the second official language of Asean, The Star reported.

According to Kompas, Indonesia's Minister for Education, Culture, Research and Technology, Nadiem Makarim, conveyed this during Ismail Sabri's visit to Indonesia on Apr. 1.

Nadiem was quoted by The Malay Mail as saying:

"I, as minister of education and culture, research and technology, of course, rejected the proposal.

"However, due to the desire of our friendly countries to propose Bahasa Melayu as the official language of Asean, naturally, this desire needs to be studied and discussed further at the regional level."

Nadiem: Bahasa Indonesia is the more appropriate choice as Asean's official language

Nadiem also suggested Bahasa Indonesia as the more appropriate choice as the official language of the bloc.

According to the minister, the language is the most widely spoken in Southeast Asia, with it being used across 47 countries.

He also said that Bahasa Indonesia is taught at many universities in Europe, the U.S., Australia and "prominent colleges" in Asia.

As per Nadiem:

"With all the advantages of the Indonesian language, in terms of history and linguistics, and how it has been internationally recognised, I believe that it is more fitting for the Indonesian language to be at the forefront and as a medium of communication for official Asean meetings."

Separately, the head of the development agency for Bahasa Indonesia, Endang Aminudin Aziz, also said that there are many differences between Malay and Bahasa Indonesia, according to Detik and Free Malaysia Today.

How did Ismail Sabri end up making such a proposal?

The idea of making Malay the second official language for Asean had been floated on Mar. 23 in response to questions in Malaysia's Upper House (Dewan Negara) asking about efforts to elevate the country's mother tongue at the international level, and if the Malaysian government would work with Asean leaders to coordinate the use of Malay at the regional level.

Ismail Sabri said that apart from Malaysia, Malay was used as a medium of instruction in several neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore, as well as southern Thailand, southern Philippines and parts of Cambodia.

He said that hundreds of thousands of people could speak Malay in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

Ismail Sabri said: “So there is no reason why we cannot make Bahasa Melayu as one of the official languages of Asean."

"We will coordinate on this matter and I will discuss with the leaders of countries that do use Bahasa Melayu so that they agree to make it the second language of Asean."

He added that Malaysia would then discuss the matter with other Asean leaders whose countries also have residents who use Bahasa Melayu as a spoken language.

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