March 13, 2003

Malay as the Asean language not likely

By Rosli Abidin Yahya

The regional dream of having the Malay language adopted as the communication language for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) may not be realised after all. Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Hjh Nik Safiah Hj Abdul Karim of Malaysia said that such an ambition may not come to fruit now that countries like Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia have been admitted as full members of Asean.
"Last year at Macassar, we campaigned for the adoption of Malay as the Asean communication language but the situation at Asean now does not favour for Malay to be adopted," she said at the Malay Language and Literature forum held Tuesday at the Empire Theatre, Empire Hotel & Country Club, Jerudong.
The event was the last of two sideline activities for the 42nd conference of the Language Council of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia (MABBIM) as well as the 8th Southeast Asian Literature Council (MASTERA), currently being held here.
Apart from the aforementioned professor, three other panellists - Datuk Dr Hj Ahmad Kamal bin Abdullah (from Malaysia), Prof Dr Ki Supriyoko (of Indonesia) and Hj Mahrub Hj Murni (Brunei Darussalam) - also delivered their views at the forum, which was chaired by Dr Hj Abd Latif Hj Ibrahim, the Deputy Director of Academy of Brunei Studies at Univeristi Brunei Darussalam.
Last year at a similar meeting held in Makassar, Indonesia, Malay linguists and experts campaigned for the adoption of Malay as the official language of Asean alongside English.
She said that in order for Malay language to be accepted universally and quickly, Malay people themselves must show creativity and excellence in science and technology.
"If we publish our scientific and technological findings in Malay Language and such innovations were universally accepted, it would cause the Malay terms as well the language to be accepted and learned. The Malay terms would also be fully adopted," she said.
However, since such innovations such as Information and Communication Technology had been initiated by the Western nations and "unless we could innovate a similar important technological advancement, then for the time being we need a more pragmatic approach, such as introducing Malay language and literature departments in universities."
"We need to strengthen the use of Malay language at universities. In Western universities such as in the UK and China, there are departments dedicated to Malay Language and Literature," she said.
Datuk Dr Hj Abdul Kamal or Kemala, a renowned Malaysian literary writer, reminisced the time when he received his SEA Write Award in Thailand in 1986.
"May I bring you to the nationalism portrayed by Thailand recipient Angkarn Kalayanapong who nearly boycotted the event because of his objection to the choice of guest writer speaker from Russia.
"Angkarn was so patriotic to the languages of Asean that he did not see any benefit of inviting a Russian poet. He felt Asean also produced good writers. I have to personally invite him to attend and he came on the last day to accept the SEA Write Award," he said.
Prof Dr Ki Supriyoko awakened the audience when he persuaded them to join him in doing some exercises to beat their tiredness, while Hj Mahrub talked about strategies and the role of teachers in helping to elevate the Malay language and literature.