PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s proposal for Bahasa Malaysia to be made the second official language of Asean has been rejected by an Indonesian minister, who felt it should be Bahasa Indonesia instead.

Indonesia’s Minister of Education, Culture, Research and Technology Nadiem Makarim said Bahasa Indonesia was a better option to be used as the main language for Asean, as it was the most used language in South-East Asia, and its usage spread across more than 47 countries.

Nadiem made the suggestion while rejecting Malaysia’s proposal to make Bahasa Malaysia the second official language of the bloc.

He explained that Bahasa Indonesia was widely taught in many university campuses, including in Europe, the United States, Australia and several Asian countries.

“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,” he was quoted as saying by Indonesian news portal Kompas Online.

Nadiem was also quoted as saying that his ministry was tasked to expand, promote and protect the Indonesian language and literature, as well as to improve its function as an international language.

However, he said that since there was an intention by Malaysia to elevate the Malay language at the Asean level, the proposal must be studied and deliberated in detail.

“As the Education and Culture Minister, I reject that proposal, but since there is an intention by our neighbour to make Bahasa Malaysia as one of the official languages, surely it needs to be reviewed and debated further,” he said on Monday.

On March 23, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Malaysia would discuss with regional leaders about making Bahasa Malaysia the second official language of Asean in efforts to elevate the mother tongue at the international level.

He also said Bahasa Malaysia would be used at official government functions abroad only when English was not the host country’s national language.

Recently, during Ismail Sabri’s official visit to Indonesia, he had informed his counterpart, President Joko Widodo, of his intention to elevate the Malay language and to make it an official language of Asean.