The Malay language, spoken by over 300 million or half of the population of Southeast Asia, should be made the official language of Asean, said socio-cultural affairs adviser to the Malaysian government, Rais Yatim.
He said the Malay language needed to be used as the official language of diplomacy and communication by the members of Asean, in line with its position as the major language in the region.
“The main language in Southeast Asia is Malay but unfortunately, it is not placed where it should be, that is, as the official language of diplomacy and communication at Asean’s official ceremonies and events.”
He said this at a press conference in Bangkok today after delivering his keynote address at the ‘Malay World Meeting 2017’ forum, organised by the Federation of National Writers’ Associations Malaysia (Gapena) and the Malay World Islamic World or Dunia Melayu Dunia Islam (DMDI), Thailand.
Rais said Asean leaders using the Malay language needed to play a role in promoting the Malay language agenda to bring it to a higher level in this region.
He said efforts to uplift the position of the Malay language in the region would also be in line with the proposal by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to make Malay as the language of Asean by 2050.
He said at a 1987 Asean-level meeting on culture in Jakarta, Malaysia and Indonesia had made the effort to place Malay or Bahasa Indonesia as the regional association’s choice language for speeches and diplomacy, but it did not progress further.
Rais said raising the position of the Malay language in line with its status of being the main language in the region was only logical because if this was not done, English would be the region's official language.
He said the Malay community would be nominal if the Malay language was not placed in a position where it should be in Asean and the region.
Gapena and DMDI, he said, had a role to play through establishing regional networking to increase efforts to uplift the status of the Malay language, and he also called on the Malay Language Council of Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore to be the catalyst for this regional cooperation.
Also present at the forum were Gapena president Zainal Abidin Borhan and DMDI Thailand president, Wan Muhamad Nor Matha, the kingdom’s former parliamentary speaker.