On March 23, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob stated that Malaysia will be in discussion with regional leaders about making Bahasa Malaysia the second official language of ASEAN, and be used in instances where English is not the country’s main language, such as when attending government functions abroad.
Following that, Nadiem Makarim, known formally as Indonesia’s Minister of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology, has declined this suggestion.
He disputed that with over 47 countries and educational institutions worldwide utilising the Indonesian language, it would be a more suitable choice.
As Kompas Online quoted Nadiem, “With all the advantages of the Indonesian language, in terms of history other than linguistics, and how it has been recognised internationally, I believe the Indonesian language is more appropriate.”
He also added that while his ministry was entrusted with expanding and upkeeping the value of the Indonesian language and literature, Malaysia shares a similar intention, aiming to elevate the Malay language to a global level, therefore the matter should be debated thoroughly.
In response to the matter, Endang Aminudin Aziz, head of the Indonesian language development agency, claimed that the “mutual intelligibility” of the Indonesian language is considerably vast compared to Malay, as it is a “local language spoken in a specific area only”.
Prior to this, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob had informed his counterpart, Indonesian president Joko Widodo, of his desire to advance the Malay language.
The Chairman of the Board of Governors, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Prof Datuk Seri Dr Awang Sariyan, noted that immense support from all Malay-speaking countries was vital in enforcing the suggestion, adding that nearly 300 million Malay speakers live in neighbouring countries.
In a statement on Saturday, April 2, he said that attempting to unite the ASEAN countries via language was a meaningful affair.