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Indonesia education minister rejects Malaysia's proposal to make Malay the second language of ASEAN

Indonesia education minister rejects Malaysia's proposal to make Malay the second language of ASEAN

In this photo released by Indonesian Presidential Palace, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, left, speaks as Indonesian President Joko Widodo looks on during a press conference following their meeting at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, April 1, 2022. (Indonesian Presidential Palace via AP)

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Minister of Education, Culture, Research and Technology Nadiem Makarim has rejected Malaysia’s suggestion to make Malay the second language of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). 

In a written statement released on Monday (Apr 4) evening, Mr Makarim said it is more feasible to consider the Indonesian language as an ASEAN language, taking into account its historical, legal and linguistic advantages. 

“I, as the Minister of Education, Culture, Research and Technology, of course reject the proposal. 

“However, due to the desire of our neighbouring friend to propose Malay as the official language of ASEAN, of course, this desire needs to be studied and discussed further at the regional level.” 

He added: “I urge the entire community to work hand in hand with the government to continue to empower and defend the Indonesian language.”

The minister’s statement came after Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Apr 1 that President Joko Widodo has agreed to Putrajaya’s suggestion to propose Malay as a language of ASEAN one day. 

Speaking alongside Mr Widodo in a joint press conference during his working visit to Jakarta, the Malaysian leader said: "We agree to propose to strengthen the Malay language, so it may one day become an ASEAN language." Mr Widodo was seen nodding.

"I believe that what we are doing today will benefit the people of both countries and I am sure that we will strengthen the close brotherly relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia," Mr Ismail Sabri said at the Merdeka Palace.

Last month, Mr Ismail Sabri said Malaysia would discuss with regional leaders to make Malay the second language of ASEAN.  

He argued that apart from Malaysia, Malay is already used in several ASEAN countries such as Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, Southern Thailand, Southern Philippines and parts of Cambodia.

There is also a small population of Malay speakers in Laos, he said then.  

“Hence in the whole of ASEAN there are people who can speak Malay. Therefore there is no reason why we cannot make Malay as one of the official languages of ASEAN," Mr Ismail Sabri said.

Mr Makarim also wrote in his Monday statement that at the international level, Indonesian has become the most common language in Southeast Asia. He claimed that it was being spoken in 47 countries around the world. 

The Indonesian language has also been taught to foreigners by 428 institutions, and also as a subject in a number of world-class campuses in Europe, the United States, Australia, as well as at several leading universities in Asia, said the former Gojek CEO. 

“With all the advantages that Indonesian has from historical, legal and linguistic aspects, and how Indonesian has become an internationally recognised language, it is appropriate that Indonesian is in the leading position, and if possible, becomes the working language for official ASEAN meetings," he added. 

Source: CNA/ks(aw)

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